Workplace Conflict Resolution: Two of the Most Useful Models

Try these strategies to best manage issues and diffuse problems in the office

(Image: Thinkstock)
(Image: Thinkstock)

No matter what industry you’re in, knowing how to handle conflict is essential to your success. But many people prefer to avoid it, taking care to duck opportunities to confront conflict head on. What’s the result of doing that? Bad feelings and hostile emotions begin to fester, poisoning relationships and even workplace culture.

CPP, a world leader in personality, career, and organizational development assessments conducted a case study to determine whether there was a correlation between higher customer service ratings and preferred conflict handling modes by call center reps at a major telecommunication firm. It turns out there was—a positive one.

The CPP study used the TKI assessment, which recognizes the following five conflict-handling modes: competing (assertive and uncooperative), collaborating (assertive and cooperative), compromising (partially assertive/cooperative), avoiding (unassertive and uncooperative), and accommodating (unassertive and cooperative).

Collaborating and accommodating were scored as the top two preferred conflict-handling modes because they lead to higher customer service satisfaction scores, greater job satisfaction, and helped to increase the bottom line over and above the other three.

Let’s take a closer look at these preferred conflict-handling modes and how they help to ease tension in the workplace:


According to CPP, collaborating is “both assertive and cooperative. It involves digging in to find a solution that fully satisfies the concerns of both individuals.” Here’s the thing: If you’re struggling with opposition at work, consider collaborating to come to a mutually agreeable solution. When both parties feel that they are coming to the bargaining table on equal footing and will each walk away with a win, they are more likely to commit to working together to achieve a resolution that’s mutually beneficial. As you work together through the pros and cons—and even some objections–you usually become less defensive. This allows parties to give over wins that make the most sense, all while still advocating for their individual positions. If it’s appropriate for everyone to walk away satisfied, this option is the most suitable amongst the pair.


According to CPP, collaborating is “unassertive and cooperative—the opposite of competing. The objective is to fully satisfy the concerns of the other individual (s) without regard for one’s own needs.” Have you ever been in a situation where what you wanted wasn’t worth fighting for? Maybe it seemed like a good idea at first, but later turned out to be a battle of the wills. If so, accommodating may be your best bet. This mode of conflict-handling primarily focuses on the other party—their needs, their wins, without regard to your own. The winning party enjoys this position because there isn’t much pushback on the terms. As long as what’s being asked for is not outrageous, it can certainly be worth it to just “give the people what they want.”

Do you have a preferred method for handling conflict? If so, please share!

To your success!

Karima Mariama-Arthur Esq. is the founder and CEO of WordSmithRapport, an international consulting firm specializing in professional development. Follow her on Twitter: @wsrapport or visit her website,

The two preferred conflict-handling modes that help ease tension in the workplace are the following:

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