Collaborative problem-solving

Sometimes, people assume that a “Collaborative” approach to conflict resolution is better than other modes. Is this the case? Why or why not?

Collaboration in the workplace is the most desirable scenario. It allows project invigoration and win-win resolution. The method is effective for complex tasks where the team needs to create more room for new ideas, sometimes even reframing challenges.
On the flip side, collaboration mode consumes time to agree and requires a high degree of trust (Psychologysketchbook, 2016).

Let us look closer at the collaborative style. There are several steps for using this approach:
Step 1. Describes a problem in terms of XYZ model for (X) behavior “I do,” (Y) “consequences happen’, and (Z) emotions “I feel”;
Step 2. Keep the opening statement short. Planning (vs. passive-aggressive behavior) the ways for conflict resolution;
Step 3. Let the other party Respond after making a short XYZ statement;
Step 4. Action. Persist and explain in different terms. Be sure to listen to the other party and watch for nonverbal cues.
Step 5. If possible, get a commitment statement describing the Change.

Once problems arise, it is mine, not the other’s party; do not judge, advise, threaten, or blame (GreggU, 2020).

Personally, the most challenging is step 4, where I need to explain the issue, and my opponent refuses to understand or pretend that nothing happened. Honestly, I do not know how to deal with that.. Maybe it is something about trust. Thus, collaboration can not be a gateway solution for every case.

According to Thomas Kilmann, the collaborative model is one of five effective conflict modes. The rest four are the following:

Competing (win-lose approach) – in case of emergencies. Effective in pursuing own goals;
Avoiding (lose-lose) – issue is trivial or has no chances of winning. Effective when the atmosphere is emotionally charged, need to create some space, and delay the matter;
Accommodating (win-lose) – cooperating to a high degree (the other party is an expert / has a better solution). Effective for preserving harmony or future relations; it may be at own expense, works against own goals;
Compromising (lose-lose) – where a temporary solution is needed. Effective as an easy way out, but neither party gets what they want (Psychologysketchbook, 2016).

Collaborative problem-solving is proven helpful in solving composite problems, consumes time, and requires trust between participants. Meanwhile, depending on circumstances, timing, and goals, there are more appropriate scenarios for conflict resolution like competing to pursue a goal fast but only one of the party’s; avoiding during an emotional storm to delay the matter for better timing; accommodating to preserve harmony but lose goal; compromising to find a quick but temporary solution.

To sum up, we need to pay attention to timetrust, and emotion variables to choose the appropriate mode of conflict. Sometimes, we do not have all the components to resolve the problem collaboratively, and we pick alternatives.


GreggU (2020, October 24). Conflict and Collaboration [Video].

YouTube.Psychologysketchbook (2016, September 19). Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument [Video]. YouTube.

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