We all have our different styles when it comes to conflict management in the workplace. Give your leaders the training  to adapt their style to suit individual team members and they will be less likely to rely on their “animal” instincts.

Let’s meet the menagerie…

Ostrich – buries its head in the sand and hopes that other people work out their conflicts. Often seen walking down corridors in busy offices with its wings over its ears repeating “La, La, La, La” and avoiding eye contact.

Eagle – soars overhead and sees that there is a problem on the ground but isn’t comfortable getting involved. A highly intelligent animal, the eagle is often able to recognise that it doesn’t possess the right skill set to manage conflict effectively. Its talents lie elsewhere.

Magpie – believes in ‘open’ communication in the form of gossiping about the problem with anyone who will listen. Has an annoying habit of dive-bombing people at water coolers in an attempt to engage colleagues in ‘meaningful conflict resolution discussions’.

Rhino – sees the problem and demands an immediate solution from all involved. Tramples everyone in its path in its insistence on a quick fix. Believes everyone should grow armour as tough as its own and then they wouldn’t have any conflict issues. Problem solved.

Unicorn – magically steps in to sort out conflict the minute it appears in the workplace. Leaves a trail of glitter and rainbows wherever it goes and believes that lollipops solve everything. Obviously doesn’t exist, but just like Santa, deep down we all want to believe that it does.

Sadly, there are no unicorns, and very few managers willingly step into the fray when it comes to workplace conflict. Wouldn’t it just be easier if co-workers had the tools and training to recognise challenging situations and effectively manage conflict before it escalates?

Conflict and challenge will always exist in the business world so investing in its management (whether you’re an eagle or a rhino) will ensure that your company stays at the top of the food chain.

Chip McKibben is a co-owner and director of Bulletproof People. He combines his experience gained as an elite athlete with his corporate experience in both the USA and Australia to provide support for business managers and leaders functioning within a high performance environment. Chip is a 1992 USA Olympian and World Champion oarsman.