In the ever-evolving landscape of hybrid and remote work environments, conflicts among team members are inevitable. To minimize negativity and cultivate a healthy and proactive culture, effective conflict management is absolutely crucial.
Today’s distributed workforces demand a more dynamic approach to conflict resolution than the one-size-fits-all solutions used in the past.
Enter: the collaborating conflict style.
This article will cover the definition, key principles, common misconceptions, and pros and cons of the collaborating conflict style.
Let’s jump in.
The collaborating conflict style is a powerful approach to conflict resolution built on cooperation, open communication, and finding win-win outcomes.
This conflict style aims to:
At its core, collaborative conflict resolution is about going beyond surface-level compromises and finding solutions that satisfy the needs and interests of everyone involved.
It involves fostering an inclusive, participative environment that collectively tackles the conflict’s root causes. It also requires good collaborative communication skills and great mastery of asynchronous communication.
According to Lesley University president and conflict management expert, Jeff Weiss, encouraging collaboration amongst team members can give leaders a better understanding of the motives and interests at the root of a conflict, so they can make more informed decisions.
And that’s how collaborating conflict style views these conflicts. Rather than battles won or lost, they’re an opportunity to grow, learn, and connect.
The collaborating style relies on several key principles for its use. We’ll discuss a few of them below.
Open communication is the cornerstone of the collaborating conflict style.
And unfortunately, hybrid and remote work can make open communication more challenging. Without face-to-face interactions, the risk of miscommunication and misunderstandings increases.
Nonetheless, hybrid teams can leverage digital tools to prioritize continuous communication and opportunities for feedback.
To communicate well, teams must practice the following:
Finding a middle ground is another fundamental principle of collaborating conflict style.
Hybrid and remote work team members who are physically dispersed and have varying perspectives and experiences may find it difficult to establish common ground.
However, the absence of physical proximity can also encourage a broader exploration of ideas and perspectives.
To find common ground, teams should cultivate the following:
The absence of non-verbal cues and personal connections can make it more difficult to establish trust among team members.
However, embracing diverse perspectives is crucial in a hybrid/remote setup, as it brings together individuals with different backgrounds and experiences.
You can establish a culture of trust by:
In both collaboration and compromise, the goal is to resolve conflict. However, their approaches to doing this are quite different. In collaboration, parties seek mutually beneficial solutions. They look for true win-win possibilities.
In a compromise, one or both parties must make a sacrifice to achieve a resolution.
Compromising is certainly necessary sometimes. But it can also open the door to only partial satisfaction — or even resentment.
For example, if two employees disagreed on a major decision, they’d have to meet in the middle with a compromise. But if they collaborated, they could work together to resolve the situation.
Collaborative conflict management has several benefits for both employees and the work environment as a whole. Here are three of the best ones:
The collaborating conflict style leads to constructive decision-making. Encouraging active engagement and open dialogue helps others think outside of the box and explore innovative paths forward.
Collaborative problem-solving helps address not only the surface-level symptoms but also the underlying root causes of conflicts, leading to more effective and sustainable resolutions.
Another significant advantage of collaborative conflict management is its ability to strengthen relationships among team members.
Emphasizing trust-building, open communication, and empathizing with each other’s perspectives goes beyond resolving conflicts to facilitate deeper understandings of each other. This leads to better interpersonal connections.
When a workplace conflict is addressed in a collaborative manner, employees feel heard, valued, and empowered.
Their opinions and perspectives are respected and considered during the conflict resolution process, boosting their morale and helping them move past conflicts.
This conflict management style also has several cons. We’ll discuss a few of them below.
Implementing collaborative conflict resolution demands significant time and resource investment.
Thorough discussions, active participation, and exploring multiple perspectives take time. The process may require patience and dedication to ensure all voices are heard and meaningful resolutions are reached.
Achieving consensus in collaborative conflict resolution can be a complex process that requires various collaborative skills.
Balancing different perspectives, reaching agreements, and satisfying all parties’ needs requires careful navigation.
Conflicting opinions, varying conflict goals, and emotional variables can make the consensus-building process challenging and time-consuming.
People with strong personalities, more power, or better communication skills can manipulate the collaborative conflict resolution process to their advantage, undermining the resolution’s fairness and effectiveness.
It’s crucial to ensure that all participants have an equal opportunity to contribute and that power imbalances are addressed to maintain a truly collaborative environment.
Be wary of misconceptions, as they can get in the way of effective conflict resolution in your workplace.
They include the following.
We tend to think of conflict as negative or something to avoid.
But when conflict is seen as a natural process — not something to fear — a healthier handling of the conflict results.
Conflict is something that should be embraced, as working through it is a chance for each party to make improvements. Every collaborative leader knows this.
Part of the reason we often avoid conflict is that we often think of it as something that requires confrontation.
But disagreements don’t have to lead to long-term division. Conflicts can be resolved without hurtful language or subverting the opponent’s position.
If a team member believes that there’ll always be winners and losers in a conflict, they’ll fight at all costs to make sure they win.
Shifting your team’s mindset to craft mutually beneficial solutions allows for a collaborative resolution to occur.
Consider the following strategies for effectively applying collaborative conflict resolutions in a hybrid workplace.
In a hybrid workplace with dispersed team members, it’s crucial to establish clear communication norms that promote open dialogue and mutual understanding.
Define guidelines for virtual communication, encourage active participation, and establish channels for transparent and efficient information-sharing.
Employ collaborative tools, such as video conferencing for face-to-face interaction, collaborative document editing for real-time brainstorming and decision-making, and project management software to streamline workflows and encourage accountability.
By prioritizing active listening, empathy, negotiation, and problem-solving, managers can equip employees with the necessary tools to effectively navigate conflicts in a hybrid setting.
This training will help team members understand and adapt to different communication channels, maintain clarity in their virtual interactions, and foster a culture of constructive conflict management.
Building rapport and trust among team members is essential for effective conflict resolution in a hybrid workplace.
Virtual team-building activities can help foster a sense of camaraderie and collaboration.
So don’t just reactively manage conflicts — build a sense of teamwork and shared purpose into your work culture.
Now that you understand how the collaborating conflict style works, you can employ it in your workplace to create a stronger, more resilient organizational culture.
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Collaboration is better than competition because it promotes synergy, builds positive relationships, and focuses on long-term success rather than a win-lose mentality.
Collaboration resolves conflict by encouraging active listening, finding common ground, and promoting problem-solving and compromise to reach mutually beneficial solutions.
You can build strong collaboration by establishing a shared purpose, cultivating trust, encouraging active participation, and promoting effective communication.
Collaboration is often considered a conflict resolution style rather than a conflict style itself. It’s one of the strategies used to approach and resolve disagreements or conflicts.
The collaboration style aims to address the concerns of all parties involved in the conflict by finding a mutually acceptable solution that, ideally, satisfies all their underlying needs and interests. This approach is often seen as a win-win situation where all parties work together to find a solution that benefits everyone.
Collaborating as a conflict resolution style is often considered highly effective and is seen by many as the “best” approach in certain situations.
However, it’s essential to recognize that what may be considered the best approach can vary depending on the context, the relationship between the parties, the nature of the conflict, and the desired outcomes. Here’s why collaboration is often highly regarded:
Collaboration is often considered a highly effective conflict resolution style, particularly when building trust and finding win-win solutions is essential. However, its preference depends on various factors such as the nature of the conflict, relationships, time constraints, and specific needs of the situation. Different conflicts may call for different approaches, and collaboration may not always be the most suitable method.
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