Round One... Fight!

How do you deal with conflict at work and in your personal life? Most people report that they don’t like conflict.

But, who does?

Conflict is here to stay, whether we like it or not. Although there is a time and place to avoid conflict, we can’t afford to avoid it all the time. Did you know that according to the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Model we can choose to respond to conflict situations in five ways?


You can decide to not address conflict, rather side-step the issue or postpone it for later. Although this response can be useful during a “time out”, it is still uncooperative and unassertive and may cause you to leave the situation with the short end of the stick.


Another type of response to conflict is to be accommodating. Sometimes it is
necessary to accommodate the other parties’ needs, however using accommodating in the wrong conflict situation you will neglect your own concerns to satisfy the other person’s needs.


Although it can be powerful responding with competing you are assertive, but not cooperative. This style pursue their own concerns at the expense of other people. You can probably use this style if you need to stand up for your own rights or if you need to defend aspects that you believe in.


When you choose to compromise you try to find a solution that will make both
parties happy. Both parties suffer a loss but a middle ground position will be found.


People who collaborate is assertive and cooperative. They finds solutions to satisfy both parties concerns. They analyse the issue together and look at all of the underlying concerns of each party. They explore the points that they don’t agree on and obtain insights from each other to find a creative solution.

Going back to my previous post about trust and Pat Lencioni’s five dysfunctions of a team framework - a fear of conflict is confirmed as the second dysfunction in dysfunctional teams. Fear of conflict affect teams in the following ways:

  • They have boring meetings as they might agree on everything just to avoid conflict.
  • They create work environments where back-channel politics and personal attacks thrive.
  • They ignore controversial topics that are critical to team success and fail to tap into all the opinions and perspectives of team members.

All of us are able to use all five conflict handling styles. It is therefore imperative that you understand your preferred conflict handling style and those you interact with on a daily basis. Try to adapt your conflict handling style towards the situation to obtain the best solution.


Lencioni, P. (2002). The five dysfunctions of a team: A leadership fable. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Thomas, K. W. and Kilmann, R. H. (1974). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, Tuxedo, NY: Xicom.

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