Culture at Work Home Page

Culture at Work

Conflict Resolution Skills

Our Services
Negotiation & Conflict
Culture at Work
Pages in this series:
» Responding to Hostile Language
» Conflict Approaches
» 5 Styles
» Preparing to Confront

    5 Styles of Dealing with Conflicts

Problem-Solve // Collaborate When to use it
  • The cooperation of all will be needed to carry through with decisions.
  • Deeply felt concerns, divergent perspectives, people unwilling to compromise
  • Those involved need to learn more about issues and options
  • Emotions are running high or a relationship has been damaged, yet commitment or interdependence is strong.
  • A decision or deal will have far-reaching consequences.
  • You can carve out sufficient time and attention.
  • Workable solutions are not immediately evident, creativity and synthesis are needed.
Process takes time, energy, effort, commitment from all sides, and often money. Decisions can be delayed too long, meetings get soggy. Disagreements about process can derail discussion of content. Revealing your interests may not be wise if future litigation or more competitive bargaining is a possibility. In highly polarized environments, it can be difficult to bring a constituency to agree to collaborative process or solutions.
Serve // Accommodate When to use it
  • The issues and possible solutions are less important than maintaining goodwill.
  • To show your reasonableness, to signal concern for the other party.
  • To put a favor "in the bank" for a future negotiation--when you know the other party also practices reciprocity.
  • To cut your losses when you have less leverage.
  • The decision or outcome is not your responsibility.
  • You need to keep customers or co-workers happy, to have minimal disruption of business.
  • Dealing with people who are volatile, discontent, and can cause much damage.
Drawbacks More competitive people may take advantage of you. Disregard own needs and opinions until it is too late. Set a precedent in relationships that may result in being overlooked and overworked. Have happy clients but don't achieve enough profit from them. You may bend too quickly without really seeking to understand their situation or yours.
Fairness, Efficiency, Be Done With It // Compromise When to use it
  • Stalemate: your goals are mutually opposite (where your loss is my gain) and the parties have similar amount of leverage.
  • A fallback when other negotiating approaches don't work.
  • Reaching your goal is not worth the effort or disruption of a full-scale negotiation.
  • Interim settlements during a longer problem-solving, judicial, or political process.
  • A quick decision is more important than an optimal or principled one.
  • The parties have similar ideas about what constitutes fair procedure and outcome.
  • Lawyers, politicians, middle management--any one for whom making workable and quick decisions, and living to negotiate another day is more important than sticking to principles.
Short-term pragmatic focus means sometimes lose sight of principles, own needs, long-term objectives, non-monetary aspects of negotiation. Create precedents for decision-making that may be damaging in later situations. Avoids really finding out what a conflict is about.
Force // Compete When to use it
  • Important issues are at stake and you know your proposal is right.
  • The other party will probably react with relative good sportsmanship to your win and negotiate with you again another day.
  • You don't need the cooperation or goodwill of the other party in the future, you don't care what they think or feel.
  • You are negotiating with someone who prefers to be competitive.
  • You want to look tough, competent, passionate in front of an audience or constituency.
  • You enjoy the mental challenge and adrenaline rush!
Can be too rigid and unyielding. Don't take time to hear what a client needs. May alienate key people. May not have the best solution but won't discover that until too late. Get caught in lies or other unethical means of pressure. Overconfident about own abilities, and therefore less likely to analyze and learn from the negotiation.
Choose not to engage // Avoid When to use it
  • The issues are petty or unimportant to you, or the conflict is symptomatic of other conflicts that don't involve you.
  • You or others need time to cool down.
  • You doubt you will be able to satisfy your concerns.
  • You have little leverage in the situation.
  • Potential disruption of relationship or status quo is not worth the risk of addressing the situation.
  • You need more time to gather information, prepare strategies, identify allies and BATNAs.
  • You are not the right person to take on this conflict or negotiation.
  • You do not wish to be visibly engaged with certain parties or issues.
The situation may not "go away". You may lose the respect of people who expect you to engage. You don't find out what the other party's needs and perceptions are, nor do you have a "reality check" on your own. Your anxiety may lead you to accommodate without thinking it through. You don't get what you need or what you could have negotiated successfully for yourself.


Links to pages on this topic:

Our Services
Negotiation & Conflict
Culture at Work
© 1997-2003 Jennifer E. Beer Fair use policy

»» Preparing to Confront