The Business Forum

"It is impossible for ideas to compete in the marketplace if no forum for
  their presentation is provided or available."           Thomas Mann, 1896


The Business Forum Journal


"Dealing with Workplace Conflict"

[Adapted from Common Materials]



By Henry H. Goldman


Individuals vary in their response to conflict, but there is remarkable consistency to the ways that a specific person will handle conflict.  Identifiable patterns of personal behavior tend to be repeated in certain critical situations.  These are known as "styles of conflict management."  They are often described as those typical and preferred ways of behaving in conflict situations, which are both identified and explained in terms of how the learned values of the individuals apply.  As the definitions imply, we can identify certain conflict management styles in ourselves and in others.  These patterns develop over the period of a person's life through trial and error and through modeling after other people.  Each style is an attempt by an individual to develop a satisfactory manner with which to handle the conflicts encountered in life.  Behind each of these patterns lies a set of faith assumptions and values that determine which pattern will emerge as dominant. 

Five Common Styles of Management Conflict

Styles of managing conflict are based on the behavioral patterns which we employ to master the situation.  There are only two determining factors: (1) how important it is to us to solve the problem; and, (2) how concerned are we to maintain the relationship with others with whom we are in competition.  The five ways of handling the situation follow:

Win/Lose Style

The Win/Lose style is characterized by a very high concern for achieving personal goals in a conflict, even at the risk of damaging or destroying the relationship with the other party.  "We will win at all cost; the relationship be damned," is the by-word  of this style.  The result is an aggressive, dogmatic, inflexible, and unreasonable approach to conflict management, in which the goal is to overcome one's adversary.  This is often seen as a group mentality.  The recent "Occupiers," have clearly demonstrated this behavior.  This style often creates the conflict, rather than resolving it.  The affect of such tactics on the relationship is usually not even considered until after the conflict is resolved.  That may be too late.

Accommodation Style

This style is characterized by a high concern for preserving the relationship in the conflict, even at the price of giving up the accomplishment of one's own personal goals.  The relationship is of the utmost importance.  The person who has a strong accommodating style assumes that the relationship with the other party cannot tolerate serious conflict and, therefore, will give up pressing for his or her goals in order to reduce the threat that the conflict poses to the relationship.  He or she assumes that human relationships are so fragile that they cannot endure the trauma of working through differences.  Often, persons with this style have a high need for affiliation and acceptance, and are willing to give up the achievements of their goals in order to maintain those relationships in which affiliation and acceptance are gained.  Thus, the more important the relationship is to them, the more likely they will accommodate.  This often seen in the business world where too aggressive an attack may result in termination.

Avoidance Style

The avoidance style of conflict management is characteristic of those who are most pessimistic about conflict.  They feel that it is not possible to accomplish their goals in a conflict situation and that conflict is usually destructive to a relationship.  Therefore, their basic strategy is to withdraw, avoid, or move away from conflict, whenever possible.  Often persons who adopt this style will leave a conflict psychologically, even when they cannot do it physically. 

Compromise Style

Recognizing that one cannot obtain everything one wants and desiring to preserve the relationship, a person with a compromising style has the philosophy, "give a little, get a little."  Compromise works in conflict, but often leaves an unsatisfied feeling.  It is not fully satisfying, but, perhaps better than nothing.

Win/Win Style

The win/win style combines a high concern for the accomplishment of one's personal goals with a high concern to preserve and enhance the relationship, which means taking the goals of the other party as seriously as one's own.  It assumes that there is an alternative in which both parties and both groups can achieve their goals and it works toward that end.  It assumes that facing and working through differences has the possibility of leading to a more creative solution than can be achieved by either party or group alone.  It has a high tolerance for differences and works to promote a climate of trust and openness in which both parties or groups can share their goals and hopes and work together for their mutual achievement.

It would seem to me that, regardless of one's particular approach to resolving conflict situations, the win/win approach just must be the best.

Henry H. Goldman is a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and is the Managing Director of the Goldman Nelson Group.  Henry got his Masters Degree at the University of Iowa and did his Doctoral Studies at the University of Southern California.  He is a Certified Professional Consultant to Management (CPCM); and has published numerous articles in trade journals and was Associate Editor of Taking Stock: A Survey on the Practice and Future of Change Management (Berlin, Germany).  He is a member of the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD); Association of Professional Consultants (APC) and the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC). Henry has consulted and/or offered training in South Africa, Tanzania, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Barbados, Georgia, Kosovo, Tajikistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and of course North America.  He has also taught at Baker University: Lee�s Summit, MO, 2008, Adjunct Professor of International Business; National Graduate School: Falmouth, MA, 2004-2008, Adjunct Professor of Quality Management; California State University: Fullerton, 2005-2006, Lecturer on Taxation; University of California: Berkeley, 2002, Adjunct Professor of Management; University of Macau (China), Adjunct Professor of Management, 2001-2003.

Visit the Authors Web Site  ~

Contact the Author:  ~  Click Here

Return to

The Business Forum Journal

Search Our Site

Search the ENTIRE Business Forum site. Search includes the Business
Forum Library, The Business Forum Journal and the Calendar Pages.

Editorial PolicyNothing you read in The Business Forum Journal should ever be construed to be the opinion of, statements condoned by, or advice from, The Business Forum, its staff, workers, officers, members, directors, sponsors or shareholders. We pass no opinion whatsoever on the content of what we publish, nor do we accept any responsibility for the claims, or any of the statements made, within anything published herein.  We merely aim to provide an academic forum and an information sourcing vehicle for the benefit of the business and the academic communities of the Pacific States of America and the World.  Therefore, readers must always determine for themselves where the statistics, comments, statements and advice that are published herein are gained from and act, or not act, upon such entirely and always at their own risk.  We accept absolutely no liability whatsoever, nor take any responsibility for what anyone does, or does not do, based upon what is published herein, or information gained through the use of links to other web sites included herein.                                                                                           Please refer to our: legal disclaimer

Home    Calendar    The Business Forum Journal    Features
Concept     History     Library    Formats    Guest Testimonials
Client Testimonials      Search      News Wire     Why Sponsor
Tell-A-Friend     Join    Experts   Contact The Business Forum


The Business Forum
Beverly Hills, California United States of America

Email:  [email protected]
Graphics by DawsonDesign

� Copyright The Business Forum Institute 1982 - 2012  All rights reserved.