Continuing our look at the five Thomas-Kilman Conflict Management Behavior types, this week we look at the typical style, limitations and overuse/underuse of the Compromising mode. In previous weeks, we’ve defined conflict, conflict management, and the competing and collaborating modes.
Compromising is defined as finding the middle ground or foregoing some of one’s concerns in order to have others met. It is moderate in both assertiveness and in cooperativeness. A classic quality of a predominant TKI mode of compromising is the suggestion to splitting the difference in order to resolve differences. Like collaboration, the objective of compromising is to find a mutually acceptable solution that satisfies all parties in an expedient fashion. The distinction between collaboration and compromise behaviors is the level of concern exhibited and the degree to which the solution is integrative (collaborative) versus intermediate (compromising) (1).
Again, as with collaboration, compromising behaviors tend to increase team performance as team members more quickly align on goals and task completion, higher focus on the objectives, and increased participation by all team members.
Strengths of compromising mode
When time is short, or when the stakes are small, negotiations using the compromising style can lead the parties to a mutually agreeable, intermediate solution. Possessing strong compromising skills and understanding the value of the debate makes the compromiser an ideal negotiator, though sometimes other team members may think he gives concessions too easily.
However, the compromising mode of dealing with conflict can lead to an acceptable solution when there are significant time constraints or when the solution is expected to be temporary.
Limitations of compromising mode
Certainly, offering concessions too easily or too early in negotiations can be the bane of an individual using the TKI mode of compromising predominantly in conflict situations. If every discussion item is “up for negotiation”, the team may lose sight of the “big picture” and of their long term goals. Also, the individual who relies heavily upon a compromising style may not discriminate between unequal alternatives.
Underuse of compromising style
Some individuals refuse to give any ground at all, leading to unnecessary confrontations and frequent power struggles. Those that are weak in using the compromising mode of conflict management may see an “issue” in everything, that is where the discussion is centered on money or convenience, the weak compromiser sees an issue of principle.
Learning to apply an intermediate solution providing both assertiveness and cooperativeness to the situation will benefit all the team members. For the compromiser, in particular, learning more about the other TKI conflict management modes will help her to listen carefully to the information rather than jumping to a premature “middle ground” solution.
Read more about the other styles of team behaviors:
1. Getting It Together: Temporal Coordination and Conflict Management in Global Virtual Teams. Montoya-Weiss, Mitzi M., Massey, Anne P. and Song, Michael. 6, December 2001, The Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 44, pp. 1251-1262.
originally posted 5 August 2010
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