Volume 2 Module 3 - Managing Conflict

Goals of this Module

  • Explore how people us different strategies in a conflict situation
  • Recognise your own usual approach to conflict
  • Recommend a collaborative approach to resolving conflicts

Strategies for managing conflict

There are five strategies most people use when conflict has arisen3.

Q: Look at the picture below and read the five definitions below.


When people simply walk away from conflict

They prefer not to become involved, knowing that it is easier to pretend it isn’t happening than to deal whatever created the problem in the first place.  This strategy might help avoid a confrontation, but it does not fix the problem.

People who adopt this strategy want to win at all costs

They are assertive* but not at all co-operative. (* Assertive means standing up for what you want.  People who are not assertive do not put their needs first.  People who are very assertive want what is best for them.) With people who adopt a competing strategy, someone wins but therefore someone else loses.  Competing works well in sports and war, but not very often when solving a problem on a vessel.

People give in to the wishes or demands of the other person

This is the opposite of competing.  Accommodators are certainly being cooperative but not at all assertive of their position or rights.  Often people will be accommodators simply to keep the peace

However, like avoidance, it can result in the issues not being resolved.  Too many accommodators on a vessel can result in the most assertive people commandeering all decisions and controlling conversations.  This denies much of the diversity of views that leads to good teamworking.

The approach taken by people who are very cooperative

These people are cooperative as well as being very assertive. They seek a shared solution which meets their needs as well as the needs of others.  In other words, they seek a win/win solution.


People who are partly cooperative and partly assertive

Although these people are partly cooperative and partly assertive, everybody has to give up something and nobody gets entirely what they want. 

The best outcome is to ‘split the difference’.  Compromise is perceived to be fair, even if nobody is particularly happy with the final outcome.

Q: Which of these strategies do you tend to use when in a conflict situation? 

Q: Read the situation below about the difference between compromising and collaborating.

Two children are fighting over the last orange.

Eventually they decide to compromise and cut the orange in half.