Conflict Resolution: Compromise / Reconcile

Although we can’t escape conflict, we can certainly manage it, or at least improve on our methods to do so. We know that there are several ways to deal with disagreements or conflict, and they vary in the amount of energy and commitment needed and what’s at stake. For example, avoiding conflicts or accommodating others in a conflict are less of a win-win and more of a lose-win, although the benefits of those approaches are still compelling, such as preserving relationships and avoiding drawn-out tension or stress. A popular conflict resolution strategy that we all utilize on occasion is that of compromising, or reconciling.

Strategy # 3: Compromise / Reconcile

With compromising, ideas and suggestions are listened to and considered by both sides before each side makes some compromises in order to move forward. It usually involves some mutual respect and trust. Both sides usually get something of what they wanted, but rarely everything they wanted. It’s a give and take, where individuals “settle” on the dispute. It’s not often that both parties are fully satisfied, despite knowing that fairness prevailed. Good relationships are usually preserved through this conflict resolution method.

Agree to disagree

In situations where compromise works best, it’s usually when both parties hold similar negotiating power, such as co-workers, siblings, spouses, etc. The best opportunities to compromise are when we know that we won’t be delighted with the outcome, but that the issue is important enough not to walk away from (avoid) or give in to the other person (accommodate). However, like those two strategies, it’s a solid option when there’s just no time or energy to undertake other approaches such as collaboration, but we recognize that preserving the relationship is important. It’s also good for when we just need to move forward, and on to other matters at hand. In other words, compromising helps keep stress levels down and brings about quicker results, while balancing cooperation and assertiveness.

Conflict in the workplace

Conflict in the workplace is a growing concern – especially when considering its impact on mental health and overall stress levels. A workplace with a significant amount of conflict can be very dysfunctional and toxic, and it’s quite prevalent in today’s work environments. In fact, one US workplace study found that 85% of employees deal with conflict on some level, while 29% deal with it almost constantly. However, it’s important to note that not all workplace conflict is bad. For example, if staff have heated conversations about improving processes and a conflict arises, if it’s managed properly and compromises are reached, it fuels innovation and progress, demonstrates dedication, deepens trust and enhances relationships. I imagine that most managers or owners would rather see their employees get a little fired up about a workplace issue that aims to improve the business, compared to wide-spread apathy. When people are passionate about an issue and committed to their jobs, it’s a good thing, as long as it doesn’t escalate into anger or resentment.

Since all workplaces have the common goal of improved teamwork, productivity, and employee satisfaction, it makes sense that having systems in place and staff training to manage conflict should be every manager’s priority.

When not to compromise

There are definitely conflicts we come across where compromising shouldn’t be an option, and other strategies will need to be relied upon. For example, when compromising makes us go against our core beliefs or values, that’s never a good thing. The same goes with reaching our personal or career goals; if a compromise ends up deflating those goals, then it’s likely not the best strategy for us, and more work is needed to come to a resolution that truly works. Further, some compromises may negatively impact the good relationships we have with friends and family, so we need to be mindful of those instances and what our options are in order to preserve those valued relations. As Paul Coelho recently wrote, “When you say yes to others, make sure you are not saying no to yourself”.

With all conflict, our main goal is to use our skills (emotional, behavioural, social, etc.) to improve the outcomes of the conflict, while maintaining relationships and reducing harm.

“Tolerance, compromise, understanding, acceptance, patience – I want those all to be very sharp tools in my shed.” – CeeLo Green