When it comes to business or political negotiations, differing styles can wreak havoc on the proceedings at hand. Typically, the person/s leading the parties is called upon the navigate the waters and to help to resolve the conflict. Knowing how to manage conflict and the various ways that people do that helps. It is usually up to the leaders of an organization or country to choose the right style of negotiation for the challenge.
Before any leader can solve a conflict, it is helpful to remember that no one style of conflict management is ideal. Rather, some styles fit some circumstances better than others. Additionally, many factors go into creating conflict such as contrary goals, personality conflicts, and differing communication styles. The savvy leader is well-versed in the different types of conflict and has a working knowledge of how each serves its purpose.
Here are three different conflict resolution styles to consider and examples of when they might be used.
Avoid Conflict by Collaborating
Collaboration as a conflict resolution style assumes that each party can work together toward a common goal. Of all the conflict management styles, it can truly be described as a win-win style of negotiation. Although this sounds ideal, it may not always work out. It’s helpful to look at the cons of this style before delving into the pros.
Although this sounds ideal, it may not always work out. It’s helpful to look at the cons of this style before delving into the pros.
First off, resolving conflict in this way requires a lot of time and a lot of trust, something that “emergency” conflict resolution situations like layoff negotiations don’t allow for. (This is an extreme example.) A good length of time is required to look at the common goal and how each party’s individual goals can work toward the common good of all. This means that all must first agree on what the common goal is. This also takes a great deal of time.
All of that said, this style has many benefits, especially for long-term business and political ventures. The most obvious example of this working well is the European Union. For hundreds, if not thousands of years, the Europeans have engaged in war with one another. The European Union was formed initially so that the coal and steel communities in various European countries could trade more easily with one another, with fewer pieces of red tape to cut through. Although it was economic in nature, the goal was to prevent the wars that marred the European countrysides for millennia.
Collaborating with one another to solve trade challenges like tariffs and other common barriers to trade eventually allowed for a common currency and a peaceful union. All of the members of the union collaborated together to help make a solid whole. Each had a vested interest in creating a stable economic community. The reality of the union is that those who trade amicably with one another and who share a common currency are less likely to resolve their conflicts through war.
Resolving Conflict Through Competition
This style counts as the most adversarial, and in fact, some may question its place in conflict management. However, some circumstances, especially ones that could turn violent and which need a quick resolution benefit from this style.
For those unfamiliar with the competition style, it essentially embraces and pushes forward one side’s goals to the exclusion of the others. This is the most difficult style for some leaders as it assumes that one side will lose. It shouldn’t be the go-to conflict-resolution style, though those with strong personalities tend to favor this type of resolution.
The leader who needs to use this style of resolution typically faces situations like layoff or pay cuts or even the introduction of new managers and policies. Companies that use this are attempting to stave off bankruptcy and other emergencies. Given that 70% of Americans blame leadership in times of economic decline, according to Switch and Shift, it is important that there is a strong and confident leader in place when this resolution style is implemented.
Conflict Resolution Through Compromise
A third option is compromise. It’s probably the style most people are familiar with on some level. Indeed, how many times have you’ve been asked if you could compromise on some issue? This style works best when the parties in question stand basically as equals in some respect or another.
This style works well during situations like contract negotiations. For example, a business owner may decide to cut prices to a valuable customer rather than losing that customer. That same customer may in turn agree to a longer or shorter contract to offset the loss of revenue for the vendor. While it isn’t ideal, the resolution to these types of conflict is usually at least acceptable to both parties.
Learning how best to lead during a conflict is a sign of great leadership. And given that companies that have leadership development programs have a better chance at being in the Fortune 500 – they’re 1.5x as likely to be there – as companies that don’t, leadership development is crucial. One of the most obvious ways a leader shows his or her stripes is during conflict. Because so much is riding on having a strong leader during a crisis, it is the wise company managers who make this a priority.