Many articles have been written regarding the five conflict management styles we use every day. Similarly, much has been written about generational differences. This article explores these five conflict management styles, and then considers generational differences when working with others at work. Finally, consideration is given about where this employee may be fit into their workforce.
Conflict management styles
Much has been written on the five conflict management styles of accommodating, competing, avoiding, compromising and collaborating. Choosing one of these articles written by Jennifer Warren Medwin here is a summary of all five styles in a nice concise commentary.
· “Accommodating: Individuals with this conflict management style are unassertive and cooperative. They tend to set aside their own wants and needs and focus on those of others. They are interested in preserving the peace and maintaining the most harmonious circumstances possible at the expense of their goals and desires.
· Competing: Individuals with this conflict management style are assertive and uncooperative. They tend to have a headstrong personality. They take a firm stance, are positioned based, and unmoved by the perspectives of others. Additionally, they are usually aggressive with an action driven approach to tension.
· Avoiding: Individuals with this conflict style are unassertive and uncooperative. They avoid conflict altogether. They tend to be unassertive while diplomatically sidestepping an issue or withdrawing from it for a period of time or completely.
· Compromising: Individuals with this conflict management style are moderate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. They attempt to find a solution that will partially please all parties. It is an agree to disagree approach. They are able to walk away from challenging situations with only some wants, needs, ideas, and opinions being met.
· Collaborating: Individuals with this conflict management style are assertive and cooperative. They attempt to work with the other parties to identify a solution that satisfies everyone’s overall concerns. It is a win-win approach. Negative feelings tend to be minimized with this style.”
As she states in her article any one of these styles may be appropriate depending the personal dispositions and the situation’s particular requirements. Given this information let’s look at some elements associated with generational differences and conflict management styles.
Much has been written about generational differences. Given a broad body of knowledge on generational differences here are some insights of broad observations summarized in a concise form that you may find useful.
• Affirmation – quicker feedback appreciated more for younger employees
• Quality time – across generations, but younger employees appreciate quality time with colleagues at and after work
• Acts of service – especially with younger employees – colleagues working together rather than “divide and conquer”
• Tangible gifts – “comp time off” and “flex time” especially
• Physical touch – No known generational differences here
• Work ethic – No known generational differences
Knowing these key elements, let’s look at some workforce observations for your consideration.
From various studies, various authors have stated that about 20% of employees are stars, about 70% are very good employees and about 10% have concerns. At any one time about 5% of employees may be on a developmental plan to either improve their performance of they may be terminated. Similarly,
at any given me about 10% of the employees may be working with their employer’s employee assistance program (EAP)if they have one due to issues outside of work impacting their lives.
For example, there may drug, alcohol, juvenile delinquents, financial, or other personal issues that may be impacting the employee at any one time. You may be working with any one of these employees. Keep that in mind too. With smaller firms that don’t have an EAP this can indicate additional concerns.
What are the implications?
What does all of this mean to you? In order to work effectively with others where there is a potential for conflict consider the individual and their approach to conflict, generational differences and what may be impacting their lives outside of work.
Reach out to them from the very beginning with an open mind and try to build a connecting relationship given the information presented here.
This information provides a backdrop of things to think about prior to ever meeting someone you may have a conflict or potential conflict with going forward. Always be honest. Offer to help. Actively listen to the other party to understand where they are coming from.
Consider generational differences and the motives of the other party. They want to come to work, have a professional relationship, do their job and go home fulfilled at the end of the day. Proceeding professionally, with integrity and honesty goes a long way towards resolving issues timely and minimizing pain at work. Appreciating others working cooperatively and being there for each other really matters.
When you do meet with others if you don’ t know them well,
ask if you might share some information with them and if they might share some information with you to develop some trust before proceeding.
You might ask them questions like these:
· to tell you their story,
· what they like to do outside or work,
· are they a morning or afternoon person?
· do they drink coffee,
· are they married or single?
· do they have kids
· do they have pets,
· what they have been thinking about,
Work on building a connecting relationship from the very beginning.
For one it can’t hurt and for another thing it just might work well to develop a good working relationship form the very beginning.
Consider your and the other party’s conflict resolution style before addressing an area of conflict. Keep in mind this is particular to the individual. Be aware of the major similarities and differences across generations. Be aware of cultural differences in your ever-changing work environment. Work on connecting relationships, actively listening and educating judiciously to build bridges to negotiate closure.