Western Continuing Studies

How do you deal with conflict at work?

Conflict at work


Conflict Resolution Style

David W. Johnson, author of Human Relations and Your Career, has identified five types of conflict resolution styles. Which of the following styles do you and your co-workers use to resolve conflict?


The Turtle
Turtles adopt an avoiding or withdrawing conflict style. Turtles prefer to withdraw into their shells and hide from conflict rather than face it. When confronted with conflict, turtles will abandon their own goals and relationships and display passive behaviours. The conflict will remain unresolved, and continued use of this style may lead to others walking all over the turtle.
The Shark
In contrast to turtles, sharks use an aggressive and competing conflict management style and want to win at any cost. Personal goals are highly important to the overpowering shark and the needs of others are a low priority. They do not care if other people like them, and they will try to win by attacking, intimidating and overwhelming their opponent.
The Teddy Bear
The teddy bear uses an accommodating conflict management style, and wants to keep the peace at all costs. Teddy bears need to be liked and will often ignore their own goals when faced with conflict in order to maintain the relationship.
The Fox
A fox deals with conflict by trying to compromise. Foxes are willing to sacrifice some of their goals while persuading others to give up some of theirs. Foxes are concerned with both goals and relationships; however, even though the relationship is maintained during conflict, the compromise may result in a less than ideal outcome.
The Owl
The wise owl will deal with conflict by collaborating. Owls view conflict as a problem that needs solving and will work with the other party to seek out solutions and ensure both sets of goals are achieved. Although this conflict management style can take some time and effort, both sides get what they want, and the tension is eliminated.


Does conflict make you want to stand up and fight, or would you rather give in and avoid conflict all together?

If your job involves working with people, chances are you have experienced conflict at work. Whenever people interact, there is a potential for a difference in wants, needs or ideas, whether it is with a co-worker, a boss, or even a customer. Good things can arise through conflict, provided that the conflict is handled with careful consideration.

Have you ever noticed how you react when confronted with conflict and how it impacts your goals and relationships at work?



Janine Higgins

Janine Higgins
Mediator, trainer, facilitator


Conflict Management Courses

Asserting Yourself Under Pressure
Collaborative Conflict Resolution
Facilitation Processes

...and more!

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