Org StratConflict and disagreement is a part of any and all relationships.  Interpersonal ruptures in the workplace can arise from conflicting goals, disparate work styles, personal values, personalities, and sometimes, simply out of sheer exhaustion.   The key is to realize that conflict is inevitable, recognize a variety of personal and interpersonal responses, and maintain flexibility in how and when to use a different response given the circumstances.


Conflict responses can be couched between the degree to which an individual places emphasis on personal or organizational objectives (task focused) and relationship building (maintenance focused).  Another common way to frame these responses is by the degree to which an individual possesses high/low concern for self and high/low concern for others.  Thomas and Kilman have a well developed conflict management style post worth taking a look at.

In the work place, both task and maintenance roles are needed to keep operations moving smoothly. Here is a list of common conflict responses.  Use these as guides to think through the way you interact with your team when ruptures arise.

Avoider (Low task/ High maintenance): Unwilling to approach ruptures and likely behave in indirect ways to achieve objectives.

Great to use…

  • If the issue is insignificant
  • When you have no power or influence
  • When you need to reflect before acting

Can be harmful…

  • When over used
  • When it leads to passive aggressive behaviors

Compromiser (Medium task/ Medium Maintenance): Willing to meet in the middle yet often overly eager to let go your needs to the benefit of others.

Great to use…

  • When agreement is needed quickly
  • If it is obvious that the other side’s needs and desires outweigh yours

Can be harmful…

  • For long term solutions
  • If perceived as betraying ones values

Competitor (High Task focus/ low maintenance): Willing to be aggressive in order to get something done and minimal anxiety with regards to relationship management

Great to use…

  • When quick decisions need to be made and organizational stakes are high
  • If needing to defend something of great value

Can be harmful…

  • If there is no give and take
  • When it shuts down other team members which will stifle innovation and engagement

Accommodator (low task/ high maintenance): Willing to let go of your own needs and desires, usually for the sake of building relationships.

Great to use…

  • When you need to build relationships for longer-term goals
  • If you need others to conceded later on a more important issue to you
  • If you know you will not win

Can be harmful…

  • If you lose power or ability to influence

Collaborator (high task/ high maintenance): Willing to create win-wins whereby both parties are heard, validated, and needs are met

Great to use…

  • Setting a for employees to feel valued and are more willing to authentically contribute
  • When stakes are high for both parties
  • To practice consensus building whereby multiple voices are heard and incorporated

Can be harmful…

  • If too much time is wasted on unimportant issues
  • One party takes advantage of the other’s willingness to collaborate

What is your style when conflict arises?

How do you respond to the style of others?

Below are few links to further explore your experiences and responses to conflict, ways to be more strategic to successfully manage such situations, and ultimately keep you organization moving forward.


This blog is part two of a series providing information and tools emerging from the organization development field.  We are excited to offer these best practices for how your manage your space.

Check out the first post: Organization Development: It’s a thing…A pretty cool thing

Second in the series: 3 Go-Tos for Building Rapport and Organizational Trust