The Conflict Management Styles Developed Psychology Essay

23 Mar 2015

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In this diagram developed by Thomas and Kilmann , the forcing/competing style is high in concern for self or simultaneously describes as high in assertiveness, which is epitomized to satisfy his personal needs under all circumstances even at the expense of others. This style is in contrast to the collaborating style, which is interested in long term and long lasting relationship and looks for solutions to meet the needs of all parties involved. The avoiding style is low in concern for self and is escapism to conflict. This style normally occurs when a party is neither interested in his own goals nor interested in maintaining relationship; he simply withdraws and does not want to deal with the conflict. The accommodating style deals with sacrificing of self-interests to satisfy the needs of others to resolve the conflict. Finally, compromising is the midpoint and struggles between cooperativeness(concern for others) and assertiveness (concern for self), and involves making concessions for both parties to arrive at a resolution of conflict. This where both parties are ready to listen to each other and willing to climb down from their expectation and sacrifice to achieve peace.

However compared to Thomas and Kilmann model, Putnam and Wilson's (1982) divide the conflict management style model into three factors namely the non-confrontation (obliging), solution-oriented (integrating) and control (dominating). Putnam and Wilson (1982) state that non-confrontation or obliging strategies manage conflict indirectly, by simply avoiding disagreements or by minimizing controversial issues. Solution-oriented or integrating strategies manage conflict both by searching for cooperation, integrative solutions and by making compromises. Control, or dominating, strategies manage conflict by arguing persistently for their positions and using nonverbal messages to emphasize demands.

Furthermore numerous researchers proposed revisions of the preceding frameworks, likewise Rahim and Bonoma's (1979) conceptualization has been one of the most popular, with empirical evidence (e.g., Rahim & Magner, 1995; van de Vilert & Kabanoff, 1990) suggesting it to be most valid. Rahim and Bonoma (1979) differentiated the styles of resolving interpersonal conflict on two basic dimensions: concern for self and concern for others. The first dimension explains the degree (high or low) to which a person attempts to satisfy their own concerns, while the second dimension explains the degree to which an individual tries to satisfy the needs or concerns of others. And the combination of these two dimensions, results in five specific styles of conflict management, known as integrating, obliging, dominating, avoiding and compromising.

Some researchers like (Blake & Mouton, 1964; Likert & Likert, 1976) have also criticized and suggested that successful conflict management needs specific styles to resolve conflict situations; for example, that the integrative or problem-solving style is most appropriate for managing all conflict. Other researchers such as (Rahim & Bonoma, 1979; Thomas, 1992) have indicated that for conflicts to be managed most effectively, one style is more appropriate than the other, based on the kind of situation. According to Gross and Guerrero (2000), the effectiveness of individuals is perceived based on which conflict management styles they choose to incorporate. They discovered that an integrative conflict management style is generally perceived as "the most appropriate (in terms of being both a polite, prosocial strategy, and an adaptive, situational appropriate strategy) and most effective style." The dominating style is perceived as inappropriate, and the obliging style as neutral. The avoiding style was generally perceived as both ineffective and inappropriate. Finally, compromising was perceived as a relatively neutral style.


high concern

for self

low c concern

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intermediate concern of both self and others

high concern

for self

high c concern

for others

low concern

for self

low c concern

for others

low concern

for self



for others









and Mouton (1964)






Thomas and Kilmann (1974)






Rahim and Bonoma (1979)






Putnam and Wilson (1982)






Figure 2: shows an overview of the different conflict management styles developed by various authors.

2.3.1 Characteristics of Conflict Management styles

Although there has been a plethora of research which has been conducted to drive the essence of the conflict management styles, it was observed that many of the derived styles have specific attributes or characteristics that set them apart to deal with a particular group of people or individuals posited more precisely by their behavioral conflict strategies (Follet 1940). They are all different by virtue and respond differently to specific situation. In this study we are going to scrutinize first and foremost the characteristics of each conflict management styles and formulate on what basis the choice of peoples conflict management styles is influenced. This research follows Thomas' and Kilmann (1974) model, which is organized around two dimensions cooperativeness and assertiveness. Combinations of these dimensions lead to five modes of handling conflict:

Avoiding style

Be it an avoiding style, withdrawing, or non-confrontation, this style is characterized with low concern for self (assertiveness )and low concern (cooperativeness) for to others, in other words this style wants to emphasize that it is neither assertive nor cooperative and usually stay away from issues which are linked to a conflict. This style makes us believe that conflict is difficult to break and the best way is to withdraw physically or psychologically for a conflict rather than facing it.

De Dreu, (1997), Hocker & Wilmot, (1998) advocate that "avoiding is most often associated with negative substantive outcomes" and that issues which consider this style are not resolved ,and usually become more serious over time especially in case where there are strong relationships between parties strongly tied through feelings, emotions and actions. Besides Gross and Guerrero (2000) is perceived to be of similar view as (De Dreu, 1997; Hocker & Wilmot, 1998). Gross and Guerrero (2000) relate the avoiding conflict style as being "situationally and relationally inappropriate, as well as ineffective, when it comes to achieving personal and dyadic outcomes." Hence many of these authors argue that avoiding can be effective in the short run, but perceived of having negative effects in the long run. In this regard if we consider avoiding in the short term, it can be concluded that it is the most dominating style compared to other styles. In combination with other conflict behaviors such as competing, avoiding certain issues can undoubtedly contribute to effectiveness. For example if we temporarily leave the conflict to cool down and reconsider our previous position before the conflict aroused, therefore avoiding can contribute to effectiveness (Van de Vliert 1997). In this style people who are willing to give up both personal goals and relationships withdraw from the conflict. When the question of adopting the avoiding style is raised to a group, members will avoid the actual conflict and become outside observers. By listening to the input on an observation basis, the group can gain invaluable feedback on emergent points of discussion, as well as team members' behaviours can hamper resolution.

Competing style

The competing style whether we call it forcing, dominating or control is epitomized by high concern for self (assertive) and low concern (cooperative) for others. The main characteristics of the competing style is that it usually keep track with personal goals, always ready to win and they assume conflicts are usually a win/lose game and winning gives them a sense of pride and achievement.

Based on the assumptions made by Van de Vliert, (1997) it is most likely that the competing style is the result of a negative relationship between conflicting parties. In this sense people that adopt this style can bring progress to a group that lacks direction or is landed in a debate. Similarly Sorenson, Morse, & Savage, (1999) agree with the view of Van de Vliert, (1997) and advocate that competing will usually not improve a relationship. Although it was found in some studies, individuals can achieve important outcomes or results through forcing behavior De Dreu & Van de Vliert, (1997); Rahim, (1992); Thomas, (1992), other research have suggested that the quality of the results substantially decreases with increased forcing behavior (Van de Vliert et al., 1995). Furthermore Gross and Guerrero (2000) argue that dominating behavior is relationally inappropriate and there is little chance for it to be effective. We therefore conclude that the effect of dominating behavior on real outcomes is very lean and will cause the breakdown of social relationship.

Accommodating style

The accommodating style also known as the obliging, smoothing, suppression shows low concern for self (assertiveness) and high concern (cooperativeness) for others. The characteristics posed by this style is mainly associated with those people who want to be accepted and liked by others, and in this position they think that conflict should be avoided and maintaining the harmony that exist between parties is of prior importance. With the accommodating style it is very important put aside personal grudge or goals and look for a common ground of understanding where we are bound to satisfy firstly the other parties' expectation. They also think that we cannot deal with a conflict without damaging a relationship.

According to (Van de Vliert et al., 1995) the accommodating style means giving in to others parties' wishes and does not have specific contribution to the level of effectiveness. This style is not likely to produce important outcomes, as it matters that the quality of decision making decreases with an increase in the accommodating behavior by one or by both parties (Mastenbroek, 1989; Papa & Canary, 1995). However some authors suggest that the accommodating style contributes mostly to the interpersonal relationship (Papa & Canary, 1995; Rahim, 1992). While Gross and Guerrero (2000) emphasiesed that accommodating is perceived as being neither relational nor situationally appropriate, nor effective and conclude that this behavioural style is more likely to be favorable.

Collaborating style

The collaborating style named by various model as being an integrative style, solution oriented, problem solving drive particular attention to high concern for self (assertiveness) and high concern (cooperativeness) for others. Its main characteristics is that it takes too long trying to find consensus and it is usually not satisfied until it finds a solution that achieve the goals and resolves any negative feelings and can as well irritate others as a result of their behaviors when they are on the verge to seek for perfection in a consensus.

(Van de Vliert et al 1995) argue that this style places high value on relationships and goals which are both assertive and cooperative. Parties adopting this style are likely to collaborate to accomplish their objectives. They view conflict as problems to be solved and as a way to improve relationships with each other. This style is termed as having a positive effect on the end result of a conflict management style while having negative effect on relational outcomes. Authors like (Fisher, 1997; Turner & Pratkanis, 1997) suggest that the collaborating style is used to define and analyze conflict issues. In contrast, (Euwema, 1992; Van de Vliert, et al., 1995) state that collaborating behavior eventually make complex interpersonal relation at stake and make negative contribution to the end result. Hence (Euwema, 1992) declared that when interpersonal relations are at risk people will undoubtedly hesitate to confront others.

Compromising style

The compromising style is based on intermediate concern for both the self (assertiveness) and others (cooperativeness). One of its characteristics is that it is a flexible and adaptive style, and goes for splitting the difference between parties, exchanging grounds of understanding.

People who consider this style place medium value on goals and relationships and believe firmly on a compromise basis. They spend long time for looking for solution but not yearning for perfection. The compromising style satisfy only some of the parties needs and some authors like (De Dreu, Evers, Beersma, KIuwer, & Nauta, 2001; Van de Vliert, 1997) delineate compromising as 'half hearted problem solving'.Pruitt and Carnevale (1993) argue that 'a compromise is associated with a strong conciliatory tendency, coupled with moderate concern for self.' (Gross & Guerrero, 2000) advocate that compromising was found to operate highly on relational appropriateness and less effective to situational level.

Unlike the various conflict management styles developed by researchers to resolve team conflict, it is often contented that a matter will be resolved easily if the right conflict management style is applied to. Likewise the selection of the proper conflict management style is not shaped by the choice of will by the parties involved but rather on various external factors that come to influence the choice of the conflict resolution style. These factors are mainly related to the culture (language and thinking patterns) of group members, their gender, emotions and their age group.

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