Conflict Management Styles: A Guide to Better Communication and Resolution

Conflict Management Styles: A Guide to Better Communication and Resolution

Did you know managers spend an average of 4 hours weekly on conflict management?

Conflicts are an inevitable part of our lives. They can occur in our workplace and personal lives and affect our relationships with coworkers, family, and friends.  And what you cannot avoid, you must manage—smartly! How you manage these conflicts makes all the difference.  

Effective conflict management is necessary in an organization. It prevents minor disagreements from escalating into significant problems, allows for difficult conversations that may otherwise be avoided, and fosters a collaborative environment. 

This article will explore the various conflict management styles and strategies and steps for effective conflict management.

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The Different Approaches to Conflict Management

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument defines five conflict management styles: accommodating, avoiding, competing, compromising, and collaborating. At some point in our lives, we’ve all handled conflicts in at least one, if not all, of these ways. 

Think about it: how often have you avoided a conflict to ensure it doesn’t become a major disagreement? Or how many times have you compromised with another person to reach a solution?

As a manager, knowing about all these styles and learning to apply them to resolve team conflicts is essential.

Accommodating style

Imagine you’re working on a project with a colleague who has a strong vision for the final product. You have your ideas, but they’re very passionate about theirs. You decide to follow their plan to keep the peace and support your colleague. 

This is the accommodating style of conflict management. It involves prioritizing the needs and desires of others over your own to maintain harmony and goodwill. It is best used if there are no clear winners in the conflict. 

This might be your best solution if you are non-confrontational or the conflict is small. However, remember to ensure that the needs of any people involved in the conflict are not ignored. Otherwise, this will easily escalate into a bigger problem. 

There are both pros and cons to using this style:


  • Maintains relationships and helps reduce immediate tension
  • Shows that you value and respect the other person’s perspective
  • Helps you manage small issues quickly 


  • Your own needs and ideas may be overlooked, leading to dissatisfaction
  • Can lead to resentment if you feel your contributions are consistently undervalued

Pro tip: Use this when the issue at hand is more important to the other person or when you want to preserve a positive relationship. 

Avoiding style

Imagine this situation: Linda and Alex, sales team members, are in a heated debate over a client proposal. Their supervisor intervenes by giving them a few days to work on other accounts. This time apart helps them relax and reconsider their approaches, leading to a more constructive resolution. 

This is the avoidance style of conflict management. It involves ignoring or withdrawing from the conflict. You choose not to engage, hoping the issue will resolve or become irrelevant over time. This approach is best used when the conflict is trivial or you need time to consider the best way to address it. 


  • Allows time to cool down and think rationally
  • Can be appropriate for trivial issues
  • Gives you time to gather more information before making a decision


  • The underlying issue may remain unresolved
  • Avoiding important conflicts can lead to bigger issues in workplace collaboration

Pro tip: Use the avoiding conflict management style when the issue is trivial or when the situation is highly emotional, and everyone needs time to cool down. Time and space will help you get a better perspective. However, do set a time and place to address the issue properly.

Competing style

Competing is a highly popular style of conflict management. It involves asserting your own needs and desires over those of others. It’s a power-oriented mode where you pursue your interests at the expense of others. 

For example, Keith is a department head advocating for a significant portion of the annual budget to be allocated to his department because he believes it’s crucial for a new project. Despite pushback from other departments, he firmly presented his case to senior management and rejected other people’s ideas. 

This is an example of a competing style. In this scenario, Keith has only one goal: to win. 


  • Lead to quick, decisive action when immediate results are needed
  • Useful in situations where standing your ground is necessary, such as protecting your rights


  • Can be seen as authoritarian and unreasonable
  • Can harm team dynamics and create a hostile work environment 

Pro tip: Carefully decide when to use the conflict management style, as using it frequently can hinder long-term collaboration and problem-solving. It is best to use it when the issue is critical and non-negotiable.

Compromising style

Suppose your team is divided on the budget allocation for a project. Some members want to invest heavily in marketing, while others argue for more funding for product development. After some discussion, you agree to split the budget evenly between both, ensuring that both sides get at least part of what they want. 

This is called compromising. It involves finding a middle ground where both parties give up something to reach a mutually acceptable solution. It’s often used when both sides have equally important interests and time constraints necessitate a quick resolution. 


  • Leads to a quicker resolution as all the involved parties get something
  • Helps maintain team morale and relationships by ensuring all sides feel heard and respected


  • Solutions may not fully satisfy either party
  • Can lead to a sense of loss if compromises are not balanced

Pro tip: Use the compromising conflict management style when both parties have equally important interests or when you desperately need a solution but do not have enough time.

Collaborating style

As a project manager, you’re facing a conflict over the direction of a new product’s development. Different team members have strong opinions about the features and design. Instead of choosing one idea over another, you facilitate a series of team collaboration workshops where team members brainstorm and integrate the best of each proposal. 

This is the collaborative style of conflict management. It involves working together to find a solution that satisfies everyone’s needs. It requires open communication, mutual respect, and a commitment to understanding each other’s perspectives. 

Needless to say, it is often seen as the most effective conflict management style, as it works with almost everyone, no matter their work style


  • Can lead to creative and innovative solutions that satisfy all parties
  • Builds stronger relationships and promote team communication and mutual respect


  • Can be time-consuming and require a lot of effort
  • May not work for minor conflicts or when quick decisions are needed

Pro tip: Use the collaborating management style when the conflict involves important issues, when you need a win-win solution, and when there’s time and willingness from all parties to engage in open dialogue and brainstorming.

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Effective Steps in Conflict Management

Effective conflict management needs a structured approach. Here are the steps you should follow:

Problem identification

The first step is clearly identifying and articulating a conflict’s root cause. To do that, you must first acknowledge that the problem exists. Ignoring it will only lead to issues. 

Speak to the people involved in the conflict. Try to understand their perspectives and concerns. Ask a variety of questions, such as:

What happened? 

What are your concerns?

What do you think caused the conflict?

How do you feel about the situation?

What outcome are you hoping for?

Have there been similar conflicts in the past?

These questions will help you better understand the situation and the perspectives of the people involved in it. You can also identify the root cause, such as miscommunication, resource allocation, or differing goals. 

Taking a step back

After identifying the problem, it’s important to take a step back to gain a better perspective. This will help you avoid knee-jerk reactions, especially if emotions are high. 

You also need to assess the situation and consider the broader context of the conflict. The idea is to comprehensively understand the situation and devise proper communication strategies.

Therefore, understand its implications and gather additional information from relevant sources. Think beyond immediate conflict resolution and consider the long-term impact on relationships, team dynamics, and organizational culture. Strive to find solutions that address the present while ensuring positive future outcomes.

Understanding, listening, and respect

Effective conflict resolution requires more than just hearing what each party has to say—it involves actively listening, empathizing, and demonstrating respect for all perspectives involved. 

Therefore, practice active listening to engage with the speaker fully. Show genuine interest by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and avoiding distractions like checking your phone. 

Moreover, acknowledge and validate the emotions of each party. Reflect on the emotions expressed by the speaker to confirm your understanding.

Lastly, ensure you treat others with dignity and refrain from dismissive or hostile behavior. Consider using ‘I’ statements to express your thoughts and feelings without attributing blame to others. 

For example, “I understand where you’re coming from, and I appreciate you sharing your perspective.” This statement shares your feelings without judging or blaming the other person. 

Seeking a solution

Now that you have information about the conflict, you need to find a solution. The ideal situation would satisfy both parties. However, it is not always possible to find a mutually satisfying solution. Therefore, consider the urgency and importance of the situation.

Do you have enough time to resolve the conflict? Or do you need a quick decision?

Will the conflict have a long-lasting impact, or is it something trivial?

You can decide the conflict management style you want to adopt based on the answers to these questions. If you have the time and the conflict is not trivial, go for collaborative management. 

Ask all the involved parties to brainstorm ideas and consider different perspectives. You can facilitate these sessions using internal communication tools. Once you’ve got some possible ideas, assess their feasibility and choose the solution that maximizes value for all parties involved. 

Implementing the solution

After determining the right solution, it is time to implement it finally. Explain it to all the parties involved. If a party seems reluctant, discuss its benefits and fairness. 

Consider developing an action plan that outlines the steps needed to implement the solution and assigns roles and responsibilities to each party involved. 

Do not leave it at that! Regularly check in with all the parties to ensure the solution is working. Schedule follow-up meetings to review the situation. This will also help you make the necessary adjustments. 

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Common Strategies for Resolving Organizational Conflicts

Here are the five common strategies to resolve organizational conflicts:

Maintain transparency and clarity

Maintain transparency in your communication and encourage your employees to do the same. This will ensure all the relevant information is shared openly, reducing misunderstandings and building trust among team members. 

Further, define clear goals and expectations to prevent conflicts arising due to misunderstandings or ambiguity. When everyone understands their roles, responsibilities, and objectives, disagreements become easier to navigate and make team management easy. 

Transparency and clarity also promote accountability and help parties address conflicts with a clear understanding of the facts. 

Establish clear policies and procedures

Implement clear policies and procedures for handling conflicts within the organization. Outline the steps for reporting, escalation, and resolution. Once developed, communicate these policies with all your employees. You can create a handbook or hold training sessions for better communication. 

Clear policies will reduce ambiguity, promote consistency, and provide a structured framework to deal with conflicts.  

Provide constructive criticism

While resolving a conflict, you must be neutral and remember that you’re not fighting against any of the parties involved. What you’re fighting against is the problem. Therefore, ensure that your criticism is constructive. 

Ensure your criticism and guidance have the following:

  • Focus on specific behaviors and provide objective feedback with concrete examples
  • Use the sandwich approach. Start with positives, address areas for improvement, and end with encouragement
  • Deliver feedback promptly and in a private setting
  • Invite discussion and active listening to ensure mutual understanding among all parties

Use collaboration tools

Streamlining communication with a collaboration and project management tool like ClickUp can help enhance clarity and prevent misunderstandings. Its various features, such as ClickUp Chat View, ClickUp Whiteboards, etc., and templates, like communication plan templates, enable seamless collaboration among your team members.  

Here’s how you can use ClickUp for conflict management:

  • Collaborate in real-time and organize project-related documents using ClickUp Docs to avoid any confusion and misunderstandings. Tag people in comments, assign action items, and convert text into trackable tasks with just a few clicks to enhance clarity of roles
  • Draft internal policy documents quickly and use the right tone and language for emails and feedback with ClickUp Brain
  • Use the ClickUp Whiteboards for brainstorming ideas and holding sessions for collaborative conflict resolution
  • Leverage ClickUp Clips for screen recording and video messaging to enhance the clarity of your message and prevent miscommunication
  • Bring team communication to a single platform using ClickUp Chat View and assign tasks directly to your team members from the chat

Apart from these, you can leverage read-to-use templates for conflict management.

Improve communication within your team with the ClickUp Internal Communications Template 

Use ClickUp’s Internal Communications Template to organize conversations and share company-wide conflict resolution policies. The template will help you maintain consistency in delivering internal communications. 

Encourage collaboration and teamwork with ClickUp’s Internal Communication Strategy and Action Plan Template

In addition, you can use ClickUp’s Internal Communication Strategy and Action Plan Template to identify communication goals, create an action plan, and organize and track task progress. This template allows you to define clear goals, develop actionable steps with measurable results, and keep everything organized for seamless execution and tracking.

Initiate conversations among your team members with the ClickUp Icebreaker Whiteboard Template

Use ClickUp’s Icebreaker Whiteboard Template to start conversations, hold team-building activities, and create a fun and interactive environment. If a conflict stems from a lack of understanding between teammates, you could use the Icebreaker to build trust and rapport before tackling the conflict. This can create a more positive atmosphere for resolving the issue. 

Countless people have improved their communication and team morale with ClickUp. Jeanne, an Administrative Assistant Senior at the University of Michigan, has this to say about ClickUp:

Migrating to ClickUp was the single most important thing our team did in 2022. Since making the change, we have found our productivity, efficiency, team collaboration, and overall morale have all significantly improved.

Pro Tip: Learn how to resolve project conflicts with our playbook on addressing and resolving project conflicts

Know when to stay out of conflicts

As much as you need to step in and resolve conflicts, it is also crucial to sometimes take a step back and let your employees resolve them on their own. It is best to avoid getting involved if it is a minor conflict that does not require your input. 

Sometimes, intervening in a conflict can make matters worse. By letting your team members handle them independently, you demonstrate respect for boundaries and acknowledge their ability to manage their disputes. 

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Role of Management and Leadership in Conflict Management

Leaders play a crucial role in conflict management. They set the tone for how conflicts are perceived and addressed. Effective leaders know that conflicts are inevitable and can be beneficial when managed properly. 

Different leadership styles follow different conflict management styles. For example, a democratic leader may prefer collective decision-making. On the other hand, an autocratic leader may prefer an avoiding or competing style. 

Whatever your leadership style may be, here are some tips to help manage conflicts better:

  • Stay neutral and avoid taking sides when conflicts arise
  • Create an environment where team members feel safe to express their opinions and concerns
  • Encourage parties involved in the conflict to share their underlying interests rather than rigid positions
  • Guide team members through a structured problem-solving process and help them brainstorm solutions
  • Use negotiation when there are conflicting interests or limited resources. Effective negotiation can help you find a win-win solution and encourage creative problem-solving
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Master Conflict Management Styles With ClickUp

Effective conflict management can be challenging, but it’s not completely unattainable. The key lies in understanding the various conflict management styles and using the one that best fits the situation.

Not all situations can have a middle ground, and not all require your input. You can address conflicts constructively by recognizing when to accommodate, avoid, compete, compromise, or collaborate. 

Regardless of your style, always remember to stay neutral, be clear and transparent, identify the problem, and go for constructive criticism. Use tools like ClickUp to take charge of the situation and resolve conflicts effectively. Try ClickUp for free today!  

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