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Running a business can sometimes be difficult, no matter how much past experience you might have of business management. When you’re a part of any small business management team, having strategies in place to deal with any issues that arise is important.
Conflict is something that you’re almost certain to come across regularly, if not daily. This means that having the right conflict management style is key, as this can help to avoid issues from escalating further.
Below are the five conflict management styles and how they can help you find effective ways to deal with situations when they arise:
1. Collaborating Style
This conflict management style involves attempting to find a solution that would be suitable for all parties involved in the conflict – meaning that everyone will be happy with the resolution. This is used instead of simply finding a middle ground, where nobody is entirely satisfied with what has been decided, and this style aims to find a way to create a win-win situation all around. This could be key in a situation where there are several different perspectives to be considered, or when there is an important outcome at stake.
In real-life terms, a collaborating approach aims to resolve conflict so that both parties can benefit, without having to give anything up. This can be a really good way to ensure customer loyalty in the future, and although such solutions can be difficult to decide upon, they can bring great results if you can.
2. Competing Style
When you decide to adopt a competing conflict management style, you see things only through your own eyes and refuse to consider the viewpoints of other parties in the situation. This could mean that you don’t listen to the opposition and simply push through your ideas and opinions until they are accepted. This style could be used when your rights are at risk, or when a quick decision must be made.
This could be useful in the real world if, for example, a customer enters your business and is unreasonable and threatening towards you and your staff. It would be a bad idea to let them have what they want, and it is a much better idea to take a stand and stay strong. Although you might lose their business, it is better in the long term that your staff can feel safe and respected in their working environment, so a competing style could be good here.
“It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, and how you’re led.” – Steve Jobs
3. Compromising Style
This is possibly the style that most people will be familiar with, as it is seen in everyday life, not only in business. A compromising conflict management style might not be able to give everyone what they want, but it is a good way to find a middle ground that everyone is at least partially satisfied with. This is a good thing to do if you need to try and keep everyone happy, or if reaching a solution is more important than the actual solution itself.
An example of this style in action would be if you have a customer who tries to return a used clothing item to your store. You may not be able to offer a full refund, as the item is used, however, you could give them a gift card to use later. That way, your company isn’t as much out of pocket, and the customer will feel as though they have been taken care of – even if it might not be exactly what they had asked for in the first place.
4. Accommodating Style
This style prioritizes the needs of others above your own. If you are running a business, you will know that sometimes it is for the best that you can simply keep the peace, even if it means that you must give in on an issue that you had been arguing another point of view for.
This could be a good conflict management style to use if you are trying to appease a customer who has been unhappy with your work or products. Sometimes, you may find that giving in on this occasion could be better for the greater good if it means that the customer in question will continue to work with you in the long term. If the long-term benefits are greater than the short-term losses, an accommodating style could be the ideal choice.
“Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything – for better or for worse.” – Simon Sinek
5. Avoiding Style
The final style to be discussed is avoiding, which is where certain aspects of the conflict are ignored, in the hope that the issue can be resolved in a different way, rather than by confrontation. Although this will not work in all circumstances, it can work in some.
For example, if you have an unhappy customer on the phone, who is saying that your product is broken, you may know for sure that this isn’t the case. However, to avoid further conflict, it’s not always best to simply state that they are wrong. Instead, by ignoring the issue for now, and offering them a series of tests to carry out, they may be able to conclude themselves without any need for major conflict at all. This could be a good way to keep the peace and avoid tensions from running high.
Ultimately, the conflict management style that you choose will depend very much on the kind of business that you are running, and the situation that you are in at the time.
Once you’re aware of the styles listed above, you will then have the chance to be able to select the best one for your requirements, meaning that you have the highest possible chance of resolving any issues that have taken place. Learning how to carry out these styles effectively will help to make you a much better leader, so there is no doubt that it is more than worth taking the time to consider how you manage conflict, and how this could be improved in the future.