Successful Conflict Management
While conflict is often seen as inherently oppositional, it can also be understood as different people caring about different things. From this perspective, conflict becomes two people working together to reach a decision amenable to all parties, rather than an argument in which one person “wins” and the other “loses.”
The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI®) is a useful starting point for understanding conflict itself and the specific behaviors involved in how individuals resolve them. The TKI® identifies and defines five conflict management “modes”, depending on how much someone is trying to assert their own position and/or cooperate with other people. In order to improve how you resolve conflicts, you should take the time to understand what your default modes are and how to deploy different modes in different contexts in order to reach the best decisions for all parties involved.
The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode: Accommodating
The Accommodating mode is a “win-lose” mode where the person accommodating does their best to meet the other person’s concerns at the expense of their own. While this may sound dramatic, most accommodating negotiations are innocuous Examples include: doing a favor to help someone else even though you don’t gain anything yourself; deferring to another person’s authority or expertise when they are higher ranked or more knowledgeable than you are; or allowing yourself to be persuaded by new information. Appeasing someone who is dangerous or aggressive would be another example of accommodating conflict resolution.
The benefits and costs of the TKI™ Accommodating style are somewhat obvious. Benefits include maintaining or building positive relationships, helping others, and resolving the conflict relatively quickly. Once you give into the other person’s perspective or desire, the conversation tends to end. On the other hand, accommodating constantly may result in others losing respect for you, or even in your losing respect and motivation yourself. As with all modes of conflict resolution, knowing when and how to accommodate others is key to using this strategy successfully.
When to use the Accommodating Conflict Management Style
Perhaps most importantly, do not fall into the habit of appeasing others. If others take advantage of you or you feel resentful, then you could be creating long-term problems for yourself. However, there may be times when you need to yield to a better position, especially if you are already “losing.” Being overruled by your boss or supervisor, being outvoted by a group, or being presented with new information, are all times that you may need to step down and accommodate. You may also want to accommodate if a small favor or action on your part could give another person significant benefits. For instance, a manager may choose to accommodate a direct report’s idea in order to facilitate their professional and personal development. Accommodating can also be a way of patching up a relationship or “making things right”, especially when resolving customer or client complaints.
Like all conflict management modes, Accommodating definitely has a time and place where it is most appropriate to resolve conflicts. Pay attention to your default conflict management modes, and consider how you might be able to use other modes to your advantage.
Introduction to Conflict Management (Kenneth W. Thomas, 2002, CPP Inc.)