Workplace conflict is inevitable; with so many different personalities, ambitions, and behaviours clashing against each other conflict will always arise at some point or other. In one report, 26% of employees said that conflict was ‘prominent’ in their workplace.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with productive conflict within a team. In fact, it can be very beneficial. Productive conflict encourages team members to consider new perspectives and approaches, widening their horizons and achieving better results.
Nonetheless, not all workplace conflict is productive conflict. Too often, employees don’t know how to resolve issues effectively. The idea of conflict at work fills many of us with dread. Without effective and productive conflict resolution strategies, conflict can leave us feeling frustrated, isolated, and unappreciated.
So, how can we get better at dealing with the unavoidable challenge of conflict in the workplace? In this article, we’ll explain how DISC can help.
What is DISC?
DISC is a theory first described by American psychologist William Moulton Marston in his 1928 book Emotions of Normal People. His idea was that people can be categorised into four main personality types. Although Marston gave them slightly different names, these are the same four DISC profiles we use today: Dominance, Influence, Submission, and Compliance.
While Marston’s research was the origin of DISC, he never created a way of testing a person’s style of personality. The first DISC assessment was created by Walter Clarke, an industrial psychologist, in 1956. Today, updated and more advanced versions of this original assessment have been created for use in workplaces around the world.
Now, let’s look closer about how conflict arises and how to handle it with each personality type.
Results-driven and ambitious, people with the Dominance DISC profile feel most comfortable when they’re taking control of a situation. Preferring to look at the big picture rather than fuss over the details, D styles are motivated to achieve their goals and don’t mind taking risks to get there.
Because they like to exert control over their situation, D personalities work well independently or when they can delegate tasks to others. They may sometimes struggle in a teamwork setting, preferring to do things their own way. This is one trait of D types that can sometimes lead to workplace conflict if they are not careful.
The D type style of communication is clear and direct but can also sometimes come across as rude or impatient if other people don’t agree with their ideas or share the same sense of urgency D types have. This style of communication is another of the things that can lead to conflict with individuals who have the Dominance trait.
How to resolve conflict with D types
Dominance types appreciate it when you give it to them straight — they don’t want to dance around the issue. Therefore, it’s okay to be clear and assertive when addressing conflict with Dominance personalities. They want facts, not emotions, but keep in mind that they might debate you. Keeping an eye on the bigger picture and relating the solution back to bigger goals can be a productive way to get the D type on board with your solution.
How not to resolve conflict with D types
One of the worst ways to address conflict with a Dominance personality type is by talking about emotions rather than facts. There’s no need to be overly sensitive about the emotions of the D type — they appreciate when people are upfront with them. Try not to compromise too easily and instead be clear about the solution you want from the conversation. And don’t leave conflicts simmering for too long — D types prefer everything to be out in the open so you can work on solutions sooner.
As well as often being the friendliest and most outgoing person on any team, an individual with the Influence profile tends to be good at coming up with creative ideas and motivating their team members. I types are energetic and enthusiastic people-oriented individuals; often their optimism is contagious to everyone around them.
Type I individuals tend to struggle to complete tasks that bore them, especially if they have to work independently. They also sometimes find it hard to focus on the finer details of a project or task; Influence types are all about big ideas and exciting projects and can overlook the details in their generalisations.
Because people with this DISC profile want to feel liked and accepted by their coworkers, they may sometimes try to avoid conflict by all means necessary. Even healthy productive conflict that can help a team move forward and fulfil its full potential might terrify I types. However, this avoidance of productive conflict can lead to bigger problems in the long term if I types do not learn skills for effective conflict resolution.
How to resolve conflict with I types
Because I types are friendly people through and through, it helps to address them in a warm and casual way. This reassures them that even despite the current conflict they are not being rejected or shut out. Keeping a positive perspective and using real-life anecdotes and examples is a good strategy to get I types on board — they often understand emotional and people-focused discussions more than the cold hard facts. Don’t forget to continue being friendly with them after the conflict; I types hate feeling like anyone is holding a grudge against them.
How not to resolve conflict with I types
Avoid personal criticism of the Influence personality because they are very sensitive to feelings of rejection. While jumping straight into a discussion of the problem may be a good strategy when resolving conflict with D types or C types, this isn’t a good idea with I types. Warm an Influence style up with a casual chat, a compliment, or some humour to show that you still like them before getting to the heart of the issue.
Easy going and reliable, people with the Steadiness DISC profile often take a while to become comfortable with a new routine or group of people. However, once they’ve settled in and built relationships with their coworkers, S types are effective and dependable workers. They thrive in a harmonious work environment and while working with a team of people they trust.
The Steadiness communication style is as much about listening as it is about speaking. S styles are good listeners who try to be democratic and fair with others. As a result, they are often the most supportive members of a team whom the others can rely on when times get tough.
Like I types, Steadiness profiles are averse to conflict, preferring to side with the majority than risk the peace by speaking up in disagreement. This can sometimes lead to simmering resentment, especially if they feel that a more outgoing D type is taking advantage of their quietness.
Another trait of S types that can sometimes lead to workplace conflict is their resistance to change. Because S types value routine and stability they don’t like to do things differently, even if it’s clear that change is necessary. Sometimes this can lead to conflict situations with the rest of their team.
How to resolve conflict with S types
Because caring and empathetic S types value their relationships and want to avoid upsetting others they are often reluctant to voice issues in the workplace. This means that when conflict situations do inevitably occur, you need to understand that they may be anxious and uncomfortable about the idea of upsetting another person.
For effective conflict resolution with Steadiness styles, it’s useful to focus on communicating in a calm and reassuring way, giving them lots of opportunities to communicate their own point of view. Employ active listening skills to make the coworker feel that they are being heard, and reassure them that you value their perspective. A little bit of compassion and understanding goes a long way when responding to conflict with an S type.
Finally, focus on working together to find common ground. Compromises are the best way to resolve conflict with S types and create a stronger working relationship than before.
How not to resolve conflict with S types
Conversely, some of the worst things you can do to resolve conflict with a Steadiness profile are interrupting them, not giving them time to express their views, or ignoring underlying issues. Using harsh or judgemental language is also unproductive — try to keep all your language calm and agreeable.
People with the Compliance DISC profile are good problem solvers, approaching situations analytically and meticulously to come up with the best solutions. They’re natural planners, preferring to take control of situations by doing careful research and evaluation in order to find the best route forward. As a result, they don’t like having to make quick decisions or working with limited information, sometimes to the frustration of their team members.
Organised and independent, C types often prefer working alone at their own pace instead of collaborating with others. They tend to have a perfectionistic streak, sometimes being highly critical of their own work or that of others. Sensitive to criticism themselves, C style individuals may unintentionally make others feel criticised due to their high standards.
Like D types, their style of communication is often direct and factual. They don’t want to beat around the bush; Compliance profiles want to communicate all the pros and cons and they have a particular focus on the details. As a result, C types may not be the fastest workers but they certainly complete tasks with quality over quantity.
How to resolve conflict with C types
Compliance types are more comfortable with facts than feelings, so when resolving conflict with a C type it helps to have data on-hand to back your points up. Don’t be afraid to go into lots of detail because when it comes to C types the more information the better. Moreover, it can be helpful to set specific expectations and plans for the future — C types prefer structure and specifics to generalisations.
How not to resolve conflict with C types
The key thing to understand when trying to resolve conflict effectively with C types is that they can be very sensitive to criticism. Compliance types hate the idea of getting something wrong or doing a shoddy job; the last thing they want is to hear you confirm that they’ve messed up. Try to avoid criticising them or their work in general and instead focus on the specific conflict area and how it can be resolved effectively. Using a logical and level headed approach instead of an emotional one is always beneficial during productive conflict involving C types.
Improve conflict resolution in your workplace using DISC
While conflict between different DISC styles is inevitable in any workplace, a good understanding of DISC can help ensure that it is a productive conflict that is effectively resolved. When all employees gain greater insights into their own personalities and those of their coworkers it’s possible to bring more empathy and emotional intelligence to conflict resolution in the workplace.
One of the best ways to introduce DISC in your workplace is through a DISC Flow® Profile. These tailored DISC assessment reports provide employees with the tools and insights to better understand their behaviours and personalities and those of others. The DISC Flow® CORE report introduces individuals to their DISC profile while the The DISC Flow® GROUP report facilitates discussion, communication, and enhanced conflict resolution within a team.
Ready to use the DISC assessment to improve conflict resolution in your organisation? Get in touch today.