In any role, you’ve likely faced workplace conflict from time to time. From differing opinions to teams competing for resources and personality clashes, avoiding the enviable conflict at work is hard.
Given that workplace conflict will happen, the Niagara Institute team wanted to understand how professionals resolve conflict at work. With that, we created the conflict management styles quiz, a self-assessment for professionals to learn their natural tendencies when approaching conflict at work. The self-assessment results uncovered some interesting insights among the over 700 respondents from 36 countries. Here’s what we found.
In 2022, Niagara Institute asked professionals around the world about their conflict management style at work. Since then, 716 professionals have responded from over 36 countries, with the highest participation rates among those in Canada, The United States, and The United Kingdom. Find out the results of that survey below.
What is the most common conflict management style?
To help resolve conflict at work, understanding how the other person may approach conflict is exceptionally beneficial. So in the 1970s, two psychologists set out to do just that. Their research uncovered five ways individuals typically approach conflict, forming the Thomas-Keller Model of Conflict Styles.
In our survey, we found that there was one conflict management style that most professionals naturally gravitate to using. The number one conflict management style professionals use is the collaborating conflict style (59.8%), followed by the compromising conflict style (24.4%). The least used conflict management styles were competing (4.3%), avoiding (4.6%), and accommodating (6.8%).
So the next time you disagree with a colleague, they will most likely want to work with you and collaborate to find a solution. Going into conflict resolution with the mindset that the other person will want to have an honest discussion to reach a positive outcome instead of fierce negotiations may make approaching conflict much more effortless.
What do we prioritize when resolving conflict at work?
Professionals prioritize restoring harmony when faced with resolving conflict at work. For example, our survey found that 55.7% of respondents agreed that their goal in conflict resolution is restoring peace with their colleagues, even if they need to push aside or ignore their own needs.
Typically, professionals spend more time at work than in any other place, so it is no surprise that when resolving conflict, most of us are focused on restoring harmony with our colleagues. The good news for organizations is that a harmonious and happy workplace environment increases collaboration, teamwork, employee engagement, and retaining talent.
What challenges do professionals face when resolving conflict?
When professionals are passionate about their work, it can be hard to back down when conflict arises. Our survey uncovered that 30.6% of respondents agreed they can come off as competitive or aggressive when resolving conflict in the workplace with their peers.
To overcome what some may perceive as competitive or aggressive when resolving conflict starts with self-awareness of your actions and communication style. Asking for feedback, taking a leadership assessment, working with a professional coach, and pursuing communication training, can provide insight into how others perceive you while also building your knowledge on the best way to communicate with others.
What do we focus on when resolving conflict at work?
When there is a conflict between colleagues at work, the top three things we discovered that professionals focus on are:
- 59.5% agreed they focus on making everyone feel heard and working together on a solution
- 20.8% agreed they focus on finding a compromise
- 8.7% agreed they focus on not upsetting anyone
These findings are positive for organizations and leaders alike. For example, a recent study from The Workforce Institute found that companies where employees feel heard had a higher sense of belonging and engagement. When there is a disagreement between peers or a leader and one of their teammates, the other party must have the opportunity to make their case; luckily, most professionals in our survey are doing just that.
Are professionals willing to work together to find a conflict resolution?
Yes! Our survey found that 87.8% of professionals agreed that they’re willing to compromise in a workplace conflict if it will break a deadlock and bring forth a resolution. Hesha Abrams, a business litigation expert, mediator, and author, agrees with our findings that in most cases, professionals are willing to compromise to resolve conflict, which she shared in her interview for Entrepenurer. She said, “We all think human beings are driven to want to win. And that is not true: 90% of us are driven to not lose. Big difference.”
When colleagues are willing to give a little to get a little, workplace conflict can be resolved quickly, as everyone is a winner, and no one is the loser. So it is great to see that most professionals are willing to compromise with their peers to resolve workplace conflict.
Do professionals pick their battles when conflict arises at work?
70.7% agree they pick and choose their battles when work conflicts arise. When a trivial dispute occurs, more than 7 out of 10 respondents said they try to find a compromise to resolve conflict quickly and move on.
These findings are promising as quickly resolving conflict allows everyone to get on with their tasks, increases productivity, and preserves relationships at work. Moreover, it shows that professionals are not avoiding conflict but resolving it in a healthy way by compromising on trivial disagreements.
What do professionals believe their greatest strength is when resolving conflict at work?
The top three answers were reasonably close when we polled professionals in the Conflict Management Styles Quiz on their greatest strength in resolving workplace conflicts.
- 28% said suggesting creative solutions
- 24.8% said finding a middle ground
- 18.6% said keeping the peace
Tapping into your natural strengths can help quickly facilitate a resolution when conflict arises at work. For example, developing a creative solution that resolves conflict, negotiating to find a middle ground, and keeping focused on preserving relationships and peace are all positive attributes to deploy in conflict resolution.
Are professionals willing to have difficult conversations to resolve conflict?
There is an assumption that professionals tend to avoid difficult conversations at work. However, the results from our survey show that 80.6% of respondents are not afraid to have difficult conversations if it will move the disagreement towards a win-win solution. In addition, the survey showed that 67.3% of respondents are willing to keep the dialogue going, despite being a difficult conversation, until a resolution is reached.
Conclusion: Resolving Conflict at Work Can Be Hard, But We Can Make It Easier
No one wants to become involved in a dispute at work. However, with the proper knowledge, skills, and confidence, any professional can turn conflict from a negative to a positive experience. Niagara Institute is your go-to for conflict resolution skills training programs and one-on-one coaching to help employees, leaders, and teams learn how to ensure conflict at work is a positive experience for everyone involved.
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