If you’re a small business owner, then you already know this: stuff happens. Every day it’s something else, isn’t it? Maybe today a needy and difficult client will come to you in a huff wanting you to solve his problem. Or perhaps two of your employees will be blaming each other for mistakes and leaving you to sort out the mess. Maybe you’ll be online for over an hour trying to get a customer service rep to correct your last invoice.

In any difficult situation, there are a number of different ways we can react. The key to being great at conflict resolution is to know which conflict management style* is the most suitable for the situation.

The Cooperative Problem Solving Style

Cooperative problem solving is about creating a win-win situation so that everyone involved works together toward an amicable solution. It might seem like this would be the best option every time, but different conflicts call for different resolutions.

The Competing Style

The competitive conflict management style can be seen in the person who puts his or her own concerns before any other needs or considerations. This style can be particularly damaging to working relationships and make it difficult to achieve a resolution.

The Compromising Style

People who are able to prioritize their own wants and needs often end up taking on the compromising management style. They are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good or to ensure that positive progress is made rather than accepting a stalemate. In these situations the compromiser will determine which conditions he or she is willing to relinquish and ask the other parties involved to consider making their own concessions.

The Avoiding Style

Just like you might have imagined, those who opt for the avoiding conflict management style distance themselves from the conflict. They may avoid confrontation altogether or encourage others to settle the issue without them. While this can be effective in some cases, it can also mean that problems are being allowed to fester just below the surface.

The Accommodating Style

Those with an accommodating management style value the relationship too much to hold onto their own self interests. They often sacrifice their own wishes in order to maintain peace and friendship.

Many owners and managers tend to default to one of these management styles more frequently than the others. However, in certain situations that default style might not be the best option. By learning how to switch between conflict management styles, small business owners can avoid letting problems escalate.

By being aware of your own conflict management style and the styles of your employees, you can make the workplace a little more enjoyable for everyone.

So, what’s your go-to conflict management style?

*The Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution & Conflict Management has done a fantastic job of explaining the five different conflict management styles in more detail and has even developed a curriculum around these styles.

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