Posted by: christopherfeld | April 5, 2011

Conflict management techniques

Our society is very conflict adverse. We tend to shy away from conflict because we think it is the nice thing to do for the other person. Yet in many instances avoiding conflict breeds contention, and does not respect the other person’s needs or interests. Take for instance performance management reviews. Is it kinder to not tell someone if they are doing bad and have them be fired, without knowing how they could have tried to improve?

To help navigate when it is best to deal with conflict, this post will describe five conflict management techniques and their implications. Then it will discuss when to use it.

Conflict Management Techniques

The chart below shows the five conflict management styles. These include forcing, avoiding, compromising, accommodating, and collaborating. Each of these categories fall into a 4×4 chart. On the vertical axis, there is unassertive techniques that include avoiding and accommodating, and there are assertive techniques that include forcing and collaborating. On the horizontal axis, there are uncooperative techniques that include forcing and avoiding. Cooperative techniques include collaborating and accommodating. Next, I will define each of styles.

Conflict Management Styles

Adapted from Whetten, D. A. & Cameron, K. S. 2007. Developing Management Skills (7th Ed.). Prentice-Hall.

Implications and When to Use

Here are the implications of the various conflict styles, and when to use them. Notes based on Dr. Jeffery Thompson’s class lectures, Fall 2009. Dr. Thompson also offers one rule of thumb, “How important is the issue? How importance is the relationship?”


Forcing is an assertive and uncooperative technique. To use forcing, one uses their formal authority, coercion, or bullying to get their way. The outcome is that the person using this style feels vindicated, and it occurs at the other person’s expense.

This style an be used at times of emergencies and when it is necessary to force through an issue that must be done quickly. The drawbacks are that it is disempowering for the other party.


Avoiding is an unassertive and an uncooperative technique. Avoiding ought to be used when the relationship will mean little to the party using it. This is so because this technique will neglect the interests of both parties. It is also an avoidance of emotional conflict.

This style can be used when the issue is not as important as the relationship, or if there is limited time or resources available.


Accommodating is an unassertive and cooperative approach. This approach satisfies the other party’s needs but not your own. It can be a useful tool to preserve the relationship. But the drawback is that one’s true issues are not being met.

This approach can keep the peace. And it can result in a loss in power or face over time, and it can be seen as the other person taking advantage of you.


Compromising is an approach that seeks some satisfaction for both parities. This approach is best used as a last ditch effort should a partial win be better than nothing for both parities.



Collaborating is an assertive and cooperative approach. This solution can be used for important issues where time is not an issue. This can also be used when one has organizational support, and where mutual concerns may result in a win-win solution.

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