Coaching Employees with Different Conflict Styles

Every employee has a different personality type – so do managers. So dealing with conflict in the workplace requires disparate measures. Your ability to resolve conflict will ultimately have a direct impact on your team’s ability to succeed, and understanding the best way to deal with these scenarios will either limit or enable quality performance.

There are typically five ways managers handle conflict: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding and accommodating. All very different responses and to very distinct situations. These differences are often times called “conflict styles” in management. Because company cultures and the people therein react to scenarios in diverse ways, it’s important to understand each before choosing which conflict style fits.


We’ve all seen these types. The managers that are headstrong, focusing on their own strengths, and creating a situation that is a winning scenario for the supervisors, but a losing one for employees. While there are issues that are best solved with a competitive conflict resolution, there are often better ways to align employees to the greater vision. Jonathan Gosling, Professor of Leadership Studies at the University of Exeter Business School, explained if an organization is run effectively, leadership and management will exist in tandem.

“It is about aligning people to the vision, that means buy-in communication, motivation and inspiration.”

Employees need to be inspired, not brought down, by their leaders. Only 30% of employees feel motivated or encouraged by their career. Losing interest in your position is as simply done as not gaining any feedback from an employer. When not being even partially recognized, employees are going to head nose down in their motivation level.


These leaders have the ability to assess both sides of the situation and find the best answer. Leaders who most identify with the collaborative style resolve to perceiving win-win answers for both those at the leadership level and on the front lines. Managers who work with the higher leadership rungs and their employees are more prepared to align staff with the company vision.

Unfortunately, 39% of employees worldwide agree their organization doesn’t collaborate effectively. With the growing rate of Millennials in the workforce, working together will become more prevalent than it has in the past. In fact, 53% of Millennial workers said these mentoring relationships would improve their value and productivity. 


Functioning as a mediator of sorts, leaders who compromise in light of conflict bring both parties to a median. They are content when either side of the situation is at least somewhat satisfied with the end results. In the middle of both extremes, these managing types neither avoid issues or fully collaborate.

It’s not uncommon for managers dealing with conflict to fall into this compromising category, as 20% of them admit to using this style. They don’t want to upset the balance between the employees and leadership; they keep the situation level by acquiescing some to both. This leaves the conflict resolved, but no party is completely happy with the final product. 


They may listen to the problems at hand, but they never really resolve the conflict for anyone. Managers who avoid conflict in the workplace seem indifferent not only to their own concerns, but the concerns of others. Despite the appearance, they aren’t disinterested. Managers who avoid the conflict all together simply don’t want to make leadership or employees unhappy. Andrea Hayden, Training Consultant for ArnoldIT, said:

“If issues build, they can create a negative and unproductive work environment.”

Give your managers the tools they need in order to attend the situation and develop an appropriate solution. The Victorian Public Sector Commission suggests taking three steps to approaching conflict in the workplace:

  • Create a cross-functional team
  • Assess the current situation
  • Identify areas of improvement

Click into the detailed information on how resolving conflict in the workplace in a humane, civil way is easy.


Generally the accommodating type will sacrifice one’s personal needs or concerns for the sake of making ends meet for others. This is a mix between non-assertive and cooperative behavior to create peace among all.

Hayden suggests taking these four steps in solving conflict to combat making the issue worse through avoidance and creating an accommodating workplace:

  • Refocus your goals and communicate the importance of understanding expectations.
  • Brainstorm compromise with all parties involved.
  • Mediate by having an uninvolved third party give opinion as the higher-up leads the discussion.
  • Give opportunity for development by taking conflict to encourage leadership among team members.

The magic behind differing personalities

Kenneth W. Thomas, Ph.D, management analyst and certified quality engineer says none of the five conflict responses are inherently better or worse than the others. Managers, more often than not, have a tendency to pull from one or two conflict styles. The blend of conflict management helps leadership adjust based on the personality types of their team. In most cases, Thomas said, many conflict situations call for two varying types of conflict styles to best combat the issue. Ultimately, working collaboratively for the best outcome is the most effective tactic in conflict management.

Bio: Ryan Mead

Vitru is a personality assessment online application that provides tools to evaluate and build better teams. Powered by science yet practical and easy to use for a variety of teams. From students and nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies Vitru works!

Great organizations, regardless of size or mission, understand that powerful team chemistry is impossible to force; but when it happens, it’s magic.

Vitru allows team leaders to create and assess teams virtually and in doing so helps quantify what makes an outstanding team outstanding.

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Tweet me at @GoVitru

Views: 242

Comment by Daniel Fogel on August 26, 2015 at 10:47am

Ryan thanks for posting.  You mentioned Millennials like the mentoring that comes with collaboration.  Are there any other generational trends among the techniques?


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