4 Types of Workplace Conflict (And how to deal with them)

One of the most common mistakes people make is assuming that all conflict is the same. The truth is, there is healthy conflict that is essential for any organization to grow and thrive and then there is unhealthy conflict that can cause even the most productive teams to become stagnant and disenchanted.

The secret is learning how to deal with conflict in the most healthy and effective manner within your control. Here are four common types of workplace conflict and how you can approach each one to achieve a positive outcome. I use four personality types, Lion, Monkey, Camel, and Turtle (take the test to find out your type), from my book entitled Make a Difference in order to create clarity around each conflict style.

How Lions Deal With Conflict

The Lion approaches conflict in a very aggressive and direct manner. The unhealthy Lion will approach each conflict as a win-lose situation. This may look like shouting or displaying anger. It is his goal to win the conflict and he will do anything within his power to gain victory over his opponent. This type of conflict can cause acute distress with in the workplace.

Conversely, the healthy Lion will approach conflict by being assertive but not over the top with his desire to win the dispute. Direct conversation is extremely helpful when facing a dilemma of any type and thus is a strong suit of the Lion.

The healthy Lion will approach conflict by being assertive but not over the top with his desire to win the dispute

When dealing with a coworker who is a Lion, it is best to speak frankly and honestly. Realize that his reaction may be strong and do not personalize his response. It is also helpful to set appropriate boundaries when in a conflict situation with a Lion. This looks like telling the Lion that you will not allow him to raise his voice or engage in aggressive behavior while interacting with you.

How Camels Deal with Conflict

The Camel approaches conflict with the black-and-white, right-or-wrong mentality. The unhealthy Camel will approach conflict as a fact-finding endeavor. He or she will spend an excessive amount of time creating obstacles instead of solutions. It is the Camel’s goal to demonstrate competency and attention to detailed information that rarely leads to conflict resolution.

Conversely, the healthy camel approaches conflict with a desire to provide accurate information that can be used to resolve the issue at hand. Having dependable data is essential for successful resolution of any type of conflict and thus is a strong suit of the camel.

The healthy camel approaches conflict with a desire to provide accurate information that can be used to resolve the issue at hand.

When dealing with a coworker who is a camel it is best to make sure you have done your homework before entering into a conflict discussion. Realize that she needs to know that you are speaking from fact and that you have credibility to address the issue. It is also helpful to communicate to the camel that realistic expectations must be set for the conflict to be resolved. This looks like helping the camel to understand that more than likely there will not be a perfect answer to the problem at hand. Help her to see the bigger picture and the importance of moving forward instead of staying in the weeds.

How Monkey’s Deal With Conflict

The Monkey approaches conflict by trying to please all parties involved. The monkey is an advocate for anyone that she feels is being taken advantage of or who is the underdog. The unhealthy Monkey may approach conflict with inappropriate humor or by minimizing the situation at hand. If that does not work she may use gossip or manipulation to gain advantage.

Conversely, the healthy Monkey will approach conflict by using her people skills to create healthy communication and dialogue around the issue. Creating clarity is extremely important when facing a dilemma and is a real strength of the Monkey.

The healthy Monkey will approach conflict by using her people skills to create healthy communication and dialogue around the issue.

When dealing with a coworker who is a monkey it is best to create a connection with her before dealing with the dilemma. This might look like small talk or a show of appreciation before delving into the conflict. Realize that the Monkey is very sensitive to your words and will take what you say to heart. Help her to not see the conflict as a personal attack but instead focus on the issue.

How Turtles Deal With Conflict

The Turtle approaches conflict by trying to avoid any uncomfortable situation. He sees conflict as something that is incredibly difficult. The unhealthy turtle may approach conflict by simply going into his shell. This passive approach then causes much frustration and confusion within his team. His strategy of silence can be destructive in any relationship.

Conversely, the healthy Turtle will approach conflict by using his listening skills to gain a thorough understanding of the problem. He will then create a calm environment for resolving the issue. Taking the time to thoroughly understand the root of a problem or dilemma is very valuable in the conflict resolution process and is a strength of the turtle.

The healthy Turtle will approach conflict by using his listening skills to gain a thorough understanding of the problem.

When dealing with the coworker who is a Turtle it is best to create a safe environment and realize that he will need time to deal with the dilemma. This might look like having more than one conversation over a period of time in order to fully discuss the dilemma. Realize that the Turtle is extremely adverse to aggression and impulsive reaction. Help the Turtle to confront conflict in a timely manner even if it is uncomfortable.

How do you deal with conflict with your co-workers? Answer in the comments!

Dr. Larry Little

P.S. if you’re interested in learning more about these personality types and how you can increase your communication and coaching skills, and become a more influential leader, check out my online course!