Conflict management is an important aspect of business that often goes overlooked until, inevitably, it's needed. Companies need concrete, proven methods in place to handle conflicts in order to avoid hostility and low morale among employees – which can hurt productivity and cause a company to lose key talent.

There are various types of conflict-management styles, but a collaborative style is the ideal choice for most outcomes.

Types of Workplace Conflicts

All workplace conflicts are not created equal; Some occur frequently, some sparingly and some are more about personal disputes than business-related issues.

Here are four types of conflicts often found in the workplace.

Personality clashes: Personality clashes are by far the biggest cause of workplace conflicts. They are often caused by individuals being unable to resolve personal issues with each other - issues that have nothing to do with their job duties. These conflicts are fueled by emotions and the way employees perceive each other.

For example, a manager may dislike one of his team members because he believes the team member is lazy. The team member may dislike the manager because she perceives the manager's straightforward approach as rude. If such personality clashes continue, teams may need to be reorganized to limit interactions between the employees.

Style differences: Different people generally have different approaches they prefer to use to accomplish a task. One person may be detail-oriented and prefer to plan out every aspect of a plan, while another person is action-oriented and prefers to act and learn on the go. Without the parties involved having a good understanding of the other person's style, conflicts may arise and potentially lead to personality clashes.

Dependency conflicts: These types of conflicts mostly occur when one person's job depends on the completion of another person's job. For example, a delivery worker from a company's warehouse may be consistently late making deliveries, causing a store to regularly be out of stock on products. If this begins to affect a store manager's sales numbers, conflict may arise between the manager and the delivery driver.

Competition for resources: Companies have limited resources – time, money and materials – so it is crucial to make sure they are distributed in a way that makes business sense but is also fair. Competition for these resources can cause workers and divisions to undercut each other, leading to conflicts.

Conflict-Management Styles

Conflict management is about the process companies use to handle disputes and clashes between its employees. A company wants to simultaneously get the conflict resolved and minimize the negative effects that come as a result.

There are five main types of conflict-management styles: accommodating, avoiding, competing, compromising and collaborating.

Accommodating: This style involves disregarding your own wants and needs for the sake of others getting what they want or need. It is a practical approach to take when the other party is more knowledgeable about an issue, you do not care enough about the issue or you want to preserve future relations.

Avoiding: Avoiding is just that: Staying away from the issue altogether. You do not pursue your interest nor that of others; You simply dodge the issue whenever it gets brought up. If the issue itself is not worth the emotional effort of getting involved, this method may be practical.

Competing: Going the competing route involves being assertive in your stance and not budging for the sake of any other party involved. All other viewpoints are rejected without consideration. This style may be practical in cases of emergencies or when quick, decisive action is needed.

Compromising: With compromising, no party involved "wins," they just meet in the middle and agree to terms on an issue. This will usually not fully satisfy either party, but each is likely to partially get what they want.

Collaboration: Collaborating is generally the best-case scenario because it seeks to find a solution that satisfies all parties involved and is viewed as a "win-win" for those involved.

No party would reject getting their needs met; The hard part is determining to what degree each party will budge.

In the workplace, the key is making employees feel as though they got what they wanted, even if it is not what they sought to receive originally. This takes open-mindedness, a bit of creativity and often involves reframing the issue to create a bigger platform for collaboration.

Advantages of Collaboration

In addition to solving the conflict itself, companies want to ensure employee morale remains high once an issue is revolved. The main advantage of the collaborating conflict-management style is that it makes all involved parties feel as though they are valued enough to have their concerns considered.

Collaboration in conflict resolution generally involves having leadership listen to the concerns of both sides to make sure their issues are understood. Sometimes this may be hard to do with only involved parties because of personal biases in their stance.

This objective assessment of conflicts is another advantage that collaboration brings.

Giving employees a platform where they can express their concerns and work toward "win-win" solutions can strengthen relationships and create greater respect among them as they begin to understand each other's viewpoints more fully.

As employees begin to understand and appreciate each other's perspective, they can begin to resolve disagreements between themselves before they escalate into full disputes.

While conflicts are bound to occur, spending lots of company time resolving them is not the best use of company resources.

Diversity in people, thoughts and ideas has been proven to be beneficial, and collaboration fosters an environment where employees can use their different ideas to create better products and provide better services.

A collaborating style example would be two marketing managers disputing over which team would take the lead on a particular campaign. If no solution can be found, a collaborative effort might be the creation of a campaign team that both managers can contribute to and co-lead. Now, the diversity in teams and concentration of talent can lead to a better campaign.

Disadvantages of Collaborating

The primary disadvantage of the collaborating conflict-management style is that it is not always easy to implement. It also generally takes a lot of effort to get to an actionable solution.

If the problem had a simple, surface-level quick fix, chances are it would not have reached the point of needing a third-party mediator.

Coming to a solution that lets each side walk away with a "win" requires leadership to consider all solutions, present these and hope to come to a resolution. Since this is time they must spend away from their day-to-day job duties it can decrease productivity.

The other disadvantage of collaboration in conflict resolution is the risk of it not working. Even if employees agree to collaborate, there is a risk that their different working or management styles may continue to collide.

There is a chance that before the collaborative effort, the employees may not have worked with each other in that capacity, so the different styles may not have been as evident when deciding on the solution.