Diversity of backgrounds, experience, interests, and habits are almost impossible to ignore at the workplace. While being captain of the people-watching team sounds nice—the workplace doesn’t lend much opportunity to be a fly on the wall. Throughout the holidays, it seems as if everyone is on their best behavior spreading general cheer and thwarting company wellness programs everywhere by bringing in extra baked goods.
What happens when the cheer isn’t spread and conflict arises? Usually nothing, because a very common workplace conflict management style is avoidance. It isn’t until we’ve lost hours of sleep ruminating that we actually approach the conflict.
Mastering Human Relations written by A. Falikowski breaks down conflict styles to increase familiarity with your own conflict style and the styles of others.
Check out the conflict management styles below—don’t be surprised when friends’ and colleagues’ personalities pop in your head as you read.
The Competing Shark
Sharks are the highly goal-oriented go-getters who are used to going and well, getting. Aggressively autocratic, uncooperative, one-sided arguments are their fave. Winning is what sharks do best (they’ll tell you.)
This conflict style works when an ideal is close to your heart, conflict resolution is urgent, unpopular decisions need to be announced, or in crises and everyone else is unsure. Indecisive is one thing sharks are not. It can be disadvantageous when the person using this style gains more enemies than friends.
The Avoiding Turtle
Given fight or flight—turtles fly…just like koopa paratroopas in Super Mario Bros. They are fine with ignoring conflict rather than addressing it. This often leads them to live very unassertive lives full of lose-lose situations.
Avoiders are great when stakes aren’t high or issues are trivial. If gathering information is more important than making an immediate decision—avoid away! Sometimes, “it’s just not worth it.”
The Accommodating Teddy Bear
In 1996, Sheryl Crow asked us, “If it makes you happy, why are you so sad?” Well, Sheryl, that’s just what accommodators do. They take on the misery if it means someone else gets feel good.
This usually means they have a lot of friends. Classic teddy bear. It also means the bear may be walked all over, repeatedly. Use this conflict style wisely. You’re allowed to treat yo self sometimes, you know.
The Compromising Fox
Compromisers are cunning: they know their idea rocks, and they know you’re awesome too! Compromise is usually a pretty favorable conflict style. It shines light on the important issues with no definite answers and begs to have each idea rounded out before merging together throughout conflict transformation.
The only disadvantage of compromising is that, not all conflict has room for copasetic smiles, catching fireflies and dancing in the rain; Foxes want everyone to have a piece of the pie, and that can’t realistically always happen.
The Collaborating Owl
You might be to the point where you’ve read for so long that you’ve naturally progressed to thinking about Harry Potter and seeing “owl” catapults Hedwig to the front of your mind. Ironically, Hedwig was probably an accommodator because she lived for Harry—she even delivered letters to a black dog who was actually a human. Sounds pretty sketchy to me, Hedwig.
Collaborators: Good at maintaining relationships, forming consensus, and merging perspectives. Bad at speedy conflict transformation. Collaborating is time consuming. It does, however, make the most people happy and acknowledges the worth of everyone involved, which it nice.
Action-oriented conflict transformation involves choosing the appropriate style and time. Saying yes to conflict refreshes relationships and can make a huge difference in your professional happiness. Being employed doesn’t mean stop having emotions, it just means handle them differently—have at it.