Conflict Management: Understanding, Skills, and Strategies

Definition Conflict Management


1 What is Conflict Management?
2 Conflict Management Skills
3 Types of Conflict Management Skills
3.1 Communication
3.2 Emotional intelligence
3.3 Empathy
3.4 Creative Problem Solving
4 Conflict Management Strategies
4.1 1. Accommodate
4.2 2. Avoid
4.3 3. Compromise
4.4 4. Compete
4.5 5. Collaboration

What is Conflict Management?

Strong conflict management skills are an advantage if you want the position, as conflict is nearly impossible to avoid. It’s human nature to disagree, and disagreement is actually healthy when for the right reasons. Eliminating conflict completely would cause problems of its own: there would be no dissent and no way for us to catch and correct flawed plans and policies.

But poor communication or interpersonal tension can easily turn a simple disagreement into anger or worse. Conflicts that are allowed to develop will ultimately reduce productivity and damage staff morale. This is why employers are looking for employees with the skills to manage and defuse conflict.

Conflict Management Skills

As we have already explained, the goal of professionals should not be to avoid conflict, but to resolve it effectively. Communicating clearly, empathetically, and patiently will lead to favorable outcomes and keep professional relationships strong.

Types of Conflict Management Skills


Many unnecessary conflicts can be avoided only with clear and accurate written and verbal communication. Assumptions about what others already know, think, or intend can lead to resentment or worse. Many people argue purely because they want to feel heard. Being a good listener can be enough to inspire trust and resolve hurt feelings. Examples of good communication skills include:

1. Solve problems quickly
2. Understanding the audience or interlocutor
3. friendly
4. An active listener
5. Leadership
6. Mediation
7. Meet with the troubled parties
8. Able to turn on dialogue
9. Negotiate
10. Nonverbal communication
11. Open Dialog
12. Suppressing Behaviors That Cause Conflict
13. Teaching Positive Behavior
14. Written communication

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand one’s own feelings and those of others, and to handle those feelings well. People who have high emotional intelligence are good at identifying and meeting the needs of others while taking responsibility for their own needs and feelings. Some ways to do this are:

1. Be adaptive
2. Be analytical
3. Affirm feelings
4. Compromise
5. Show curiosity
6. Forgive
7. Help others
8. Troubleshooting identification
9. Looking for a fix
10. Setting ground rules
11. Show some respect
12. Modify behavior
13. Motivated
14. Be optimistic
15. Self-aware
16. Showing independence


Empathy means feeling what another person feels. The ability to see situations from the other person’s point of view, and to understand their needs, motivations, and possible misunderstandings, is essential for effective conflict management. Some people are naturally more empathetic than others, but empathy can be developed.

At a useful point, empathy is reinforced by an intellectual understanding of the other person’s situation, because emotional empathy alone can sometimes create complicated scenarios. Empathy is best applied in the work environment when paired with critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and other types of wisdom. Characteristics of empathy include:

1. Accountability
2. Request feedback
3. Build trust
4. Show affection
5. Embracing diversity and inclusion
6. Provide constructive feedback
7. Handles multiple human characters
8. Managing emotions
9. High emotional intelligence
10. Identify nonverbal cues
11. Recognize the difference
12. Understanding different points of view
13. Good interpersonal skills
14. Ability to recognize problems
15. Good self-control
16. Ability to accept different opinions

Creative Problem Solving

The understanding and communication applied to conflict management will do great things, but it’s not much help if you don’t have a solution to the underlying problem, whatever it may be.

Conflict often occurs because no one can find a workable solution, so resolving conflict depends on creating a solution. That makes problem-solving a needed skill for you. Examples of problem-solving in conflict management include:

1. Conflict analysis
2. Listen to opinions
3. Collaborate
4. Verbal communication
5. Face-to-face meeting
6. Creativity
7. Decision making
8. Giving sanctions
9. Nonverbal communication
10. Problem-solving
11. A sense of humor
12. Target integration
13. Monitor compliance
14. Reconfigure relationships
15. Reasonable resolution

Conflict Management Strategy

1. Accommodating

This strategy is about putting the needs of the other party above your own. You allow them to ‘win’ and get what they want.

Accommodation is for situations where you don’t care as much about the problem as other people do, if prolonging the conflict isn’t worth your time, or if you feel you might be wrong.

This option is about keeping the peace, not trying harder than the problem is worth, and knowing when to choose conflict.

While it may seem a bit flimsy, accommodation can be the absolute best option for resolving minor conflicts and moving on with more important issues. This style of strategy is very cooperative on the part of the problem solver but can lead to resentment.

Pros: Minor disagreements can be handled quickly and easily, with minimal effort. Managers can build a reputation for being easygoing, and employees will know they can express their opinion on issues without retaliation.

Weaknesses: Managers may be perceived as weak if they accommodate too often. Using this technique with larger or more important problems will not solve any problems in any meaningful way and should be strictly avoided.


In the marketing meeting, the colors for the Ramadan campaign are being discussed. Raymond was adamant that option A was the best choice. Gina thinks that option B is slightly better, but decides to let Raymond choose the colors and Gina choose the theme, to avoid arguing about the two options she thinks are fine.

2. Avoid

This strategy aims to reduce conflict by ignoring it, getting rid of the conflicting parties, or avoiding it in some way. Conflicting team members can be removed from the project they were in conflict with, deadlines pushed, or people even transferred to another department.

This can be an effective conflict resolution style if there is a chance that a quiet period will help or if you need more time to consider your stand on the conflict itself.

However, avoidance should not be a substitute for proper resolution; pushing back conflict indefinitely can and will lead to more (and bigger) conflicts in the future.

Pros: Giving people time to calm down can solve a surprising number of problems.

Time and space can provide a much-needed perspective for those in conflict, and some issues will resolve on their own. Managers demonstrate that they trust employees to act like adults and solve problems.

Disadvantages: If used in the wrong situation, this technique will exacerbate conflict. Managers can appear incompetent if they use avoidance too often because employees will think they are incapable of handling disputes.


Fahmi and Trio have been collaborating on a new UX design for weeks. The deadline was drawing near and they were increasingly unable to agree to changes.

The deadline was pushed back and they were both given time to work on another project. Space to take a break from each other, as well as extra time to complete their projects, allows them to cool off and move on in a more collaborative mindset.

3. Compromise

This conflict management strategy seeks to find a middle ground by asking both parties to acknowledge some aspects of their desire so that a solution can be agreed upon.

This style is sometimes called lose-lose because both parties have to give up several things to agree on the bigger issue. It is used when there is a time crunch, or when a solution just needs to happen, not be perfect.

Compromise can lead to resentment, especially if overused as a conflict resolution tactic, so use it sparingly.

Pros: Problems can be resolved quickly, and conflict parties will leave a greater understanding of the other person’s perspective.

Compromise can set the stage for future collaborations, and make both parties feel heard. Managers who use this tactic are perceived as facilitating deals, acting directly, and seeking solutions.

Weaknesses: No one is truly happy. In some cases, one party may feel as though they have sacrificed too much, and are unwilling to compromise again in the future. Managers who rely on this technique will burn the goodwill of their employees and are considered unable to collaborate.


Rina and Anton are responsible for the advertising budget for the next quarter. Rina wants to hire a full-time social media person, while Anton wants to increase targeted digital advertising.

A compromise was reached by hiring social media people to work part time, with the remainder of the budget spent on digital advertising.

4. Compete

This style resists compromise and involves not giving in to the other person’s point of view or wishes.

One party stands firm in what they perceive to be the correct handling of a situation, and will not back down until they get what they want.

This can happen in situations where morals dictate that certain actions be taken, when there is no time to try and find a different solution or when there is an unpopular decision to be made.

This can resolve disputes quickly, but there is a high probability of reduced morality and productivity.

Note: This is not a strategy to be highly relied on.

Pros: Managers who use this style demonstrate that they are strong and will not back down from their principles. Disputes are resolved quickly, as there is no room for any dispute or discussion.

Weaknesses: Managers who use this style will be seen as unreasonable and authoritarian. Dealing with conflict by eliminating dissent will not result in happy and productive employees, nor will it lead to finding the best solution in most cases.


Sophia was the head of his department. Within his staff, he has handled several conflicts. First, Paul and Kevin disagreed on where to hold the annual team building activity, he stepped in and decided that the department would do it.

Second, Cecile and Eduardo bicker about which of them should deal with a particularly difficult client.

No one wants to put in the time and effort and has argued that it is the other party’s job to deal with it. Sophia decided it was Cecile’s job to take care of the clients, though one could say it was someone else’s job.

Third, Alex has visited Sophia several times, asking for permission to change the management of the project she is currently running.

He thought that the changes he proposed would make the project much more successful. Sophia wouldn’t budge in carrying out her project and told her to finish the job according to her orders.

As you can see, in the first instance, Sophia made a quick decision to stop the escalation of a minor conflict or wasting time. This is the proper use of this style.

In the second decision, as he worked things out, he irritated the now irritating Cecile. Especially in cases where the boss likes the employee, this type of unilateral decision making will cause the employee to get angry.

In the third situation, Sophia shouldn’t have used a good strategy. Not only is Alex now annoyed that he isn’t being listened to, but Sophia is also missing out on an opportunity to step up the project.

5. Collaboration

This style provides the best long-term results, as well as being the most difficult and time-consuming to achieve.

The needs and wants of each party are considered, and mutually beneficial solutions are found so that everyone is satisfied. This often involves all parties sitting together, discussing the conflict and negotiating a common solution.

It is used when it is very important to maintain the relationship between all parties or when the solution itself will have a significant impact.

Pros: Everyone is happy. Solutions that actually solve the conflict problem are found, and managers who employ these tactics will be considered skilled.

Disadvantages: This style of conflict management is time-consuming. Deadlines or production may have to be delayed while a solution is found, which may take a long time, depending on the parties involved and may result in losses.

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