What Is the Compromising Conflict Management Style and When Should You Use It?

Everyone handles conflict differently. As conflict management skills go, the compromising conflict style works well when there are two equally formidable parties willing to make concessions in the interest of maintaining a good working relationship. 

The compromising conflict management style is just one of five styles of conflict resolution. The four other styles are:

  • Accommodating style
  • Competing style
  • Collaborating style
  • Avoiding style 

What is the compromising style?

Compromising conflict style is a valuable tool for managers, particularly when you’re dealing with multiple parties with differing interests.  The Latin comprōmissum means “a mutual promise.” And the French compromis means “accord.” Compromise brings about agreement, but it doesn’t necessarily solve underlying issues. Compromise is frequently an arrangement where there’s a mutual concession: a middle ground is reached and both parties give up something to get something. It can produce a solution, and everyone may move on momentarily, but the parties may feel discontent in the long term. 

Example of the compromising style in practice

Let’s say the construction project you’re managing has fallen behind schedule. You and your partner disagree on how to proceed. You want to ask the client for a two-week extension while your partner wants to ask the crews to work longer hours, five days a week. After arguing for several days, you suggest to your partner that you ask the client for a one-week extension on the deadline and ask your crews to work additional hours only three days a week instead of five. Neither of you is completely happy with this option, but you decide to make do and to quickly move past the conflict. 

Compromise vs. collaboration: What’s the difference?

Compromising and collaborating both involve opposing parties getting their needs met. The main difference is to what extent those needs are met. 

Compromising means that both sides make concessions, so each party is somewhat satisfied but not entirely satisfied with the outcome. In a compromise, each party gives up some of what they want in order to move forward. 

By contrast, collaborating means that both parties get all their needs met. Those who employ collaboration are partners in the creation of an answer. By establishing trust among parties and communicating with thoughtfulness and empathy, the two sides find a creative solution that meets everyone’s needs.

When should you use the compromising style? 

Using compromise to manage conflict is appropriate in the following situations:

  • When the project will benefit from both parties sacrificing some of their demands.
  • When grievances have been aired and there’s no other option but to compromise.
  • When it’s unlikely that everyone involved in the conflict will be satisfied.
  • When opposing parties’ objectives have equal merit.
  • When the conflict calls for a speedy resolution, even if fleeting.
  • When bargaining is an option.
  • When the outcome doesn’t warrant the time and effort it takes to use another mode, such as collaboration.
  • When maintaining relationships is a higher priority than the disagreement itself.
  • When both parties can “agree to disagree.”

When should you not use the compromising style? 

Using compromise to manage conflict is not appropriate in the following situations:

  • When issues of legal, regulatory, or industry compliance are involved. In this case, competing style would be more appropriate.
  • When the project lacks the financial resources to take a compromising course of action. 
  • When a compromise would have negative long-term repercussions such as causing a widespread perception of weakness within the industry or damage to employee morale. A collaborating approach where everyone’s needs are met would work better here.

MT Copeland offers video-based online classes that give you a foundation in construction fundamentals with real-world applications, like managing conflict on the jobsite

Classes include professionally produced videos taught by practicing craftspeople, and supplementary downloads like quizzes, blueprints, and other materials to help you master the skills. 


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Dr. Christine Fiori

Dr. Christine Fiori is the Program Director of the Construction Management Program at Drexel University where she teaches courses in Project Controls, Equipment Applications and Economics, Leadership, Safety and Strategic Management. Prior to joining the faculty at Drexel University, she was the Preston and Catharine White Fellow and Associate Director of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction at Virginia Tech. She received her PhD in Civil Engineering from Drexel University in 1997. She served as a Civil Engineering officer in the United States Air Force and taught at both the US Air Force Academy and Arizona State University. Her passion for building was stoked early in her life as both her father and grandfather were carpenters.

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