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MS in Marketing Course Insight: What Is Your Conflict Management Style?

Everyone deals with conflict differently. A required reading from the MS in Marketing program explores five common conflict styles.

No matter how much you try to avoid it, conflict is a reality in the workplace. And if you work in business, marketing, or any other field that involves people, how you manage and resolve conflict can impact your career significantly.

Good universities, colleges, and business schools know conflict management is among the best career skills you can teach business and marketing students. In fact, many business and marketing programs cover the topic in the degree coursework. At Walden University, for example, graduate students in the MS in Marketing online degree program are learning strategies for handling conflict in their careers and life through the class MGMT 6120: Negotiation and Conflict Resolution.


As part of the online course, students in the MS program complete the required reading “What is Your Conflict Style? Understanding and Dealing With Your Conflict Style,”1 written by Keith Conerly and Arvind Tripathi for a leadership and business journal. In the article, marketing students explore conflict styles and learn strategies for dealing with conflict in the workplace. The authors begin the article by pointing out two primary influencers on how people manage conflict:

“There are basically two things that affect the way you manage conflict in a given situation. One is how much you care about achieving your own goals—how assertive you are. The other is how much you care about relationships—how cooperative you are.”

The master’s in marketing students learn that there are five conflict styles, according to the article. The writers describe these five conflict management styles in detail. Here is an excerpt from the reading:

“There are five conflict management styles based on how important goals and relationships are to the conflicting parties (low, medium, or high importance for both factors). They are:

  • Withdrawing
  • Forcing
  • Smoothing
  • Confronting
  • Compromising

Withdrawing: Low Relationships, Low Goals

People who are willing to give up both personal goals and relationships withdraw from conflict. They are neither assertive nor cooperative. If the group allows them to, they will avoid the actual conflict and become outside observers. By listening to their input, the group can gain invaluable feedback on emergent points of discussion, as well as team members’ behaviors that are fostering or inhibiting resolution. They also have the following characteristics:

  • They are neither assertive nor cooperative.
  • They stay away from issues where there is conflict.
  • They believe it's difficult to resolve conflict.
  • They find it easier to withdraw physically or psychologically from a conflict than to face it.

Forcing: Low Relationships, High Goals

People who pursue goals at the expense of relationships are competitive and forceful. They are highly assertive and not particularly cooperative. These people can bring progress to a group that lacks direction or is stalled in debate. Their other characteristics include the following:

  • They keep on track with goals.
  • They like to win.
  • They assume conflicts are usually win/loss, and winning gives them a sense of pride and achievement.

Smoothing: High Relationships, Low Goals

People who give up goals to preserve relationships are highly cooperative. They are quick to accommodate and not very assertive or goal oriented. They can bring great insight into the consequences a decision will have on people. The characteristics shown below are associated with these people:

  • They want to be accepted and liked by others.
  • They think conflict should be avoided in favor of harmony.
  • They set aside or compromise goals.
  • They keep their ideas to themselves.
  • They worry that people can't deal with conflict without damaging relationships.

Confronting: High Relationships, High Goals

People who place high value on relationships and goals are assertive and cooperative. They are likely to confront others and collaborate to accomplish an objective. They view conflicts as problems to solve and as a way to improve relationships; however, their style is not always ideal, as shown by some of the characteristics listed below:

  • They take too long trying to find perfection.
  • They are not satisfied until they find a solution that achieves the goal and resolves any negative feelings.
  • They can irritate others as a result of their behaviors.

Compromising: Medium Relationships, Medium Goals

People who place medium value on goals and relationships believe in compromise. They are moderately assertive and cooperative. They spend time looking for solutions but are not looking for perfection. They also have the following characteristics:

  • They are flexible and adaptive.
  • They go for splitting the difference, exchanging concessions, or seeking middle ground.
  • They seem like they are overly political or they can't make up their minds.

Through the article, the master’s in marketing students learn to assess their own conflict styles to some degree. The authors emphasize that understanding your conflict style can help you become a better team member and leader, with more effective ways for managing and resolving conflict. They conclude with the following:

“If you can become more conscious of your style, you can learn to choose which aspects of it to display under specific conditions. You can share the motivations behind your behaviors so other team members understand your perspective and how your style has led to that perspective. At times, you can hold back your comments to offset some of the problems associated with your style. At other times, you can step forward and assert your style to help the group move forward.

These approaches—and many others that create balance among the styles of group members—can be very beneficial in creating collaborative solutions in an effective and timely manner. They require that team members honor each other's conflict styles and are willing to exercise restraint on occasion for the good of the group. They do not require that individuals change their styles to conform to the majority. Knowing your conflict style, as well as how others perceive your behaviors during times of conflict, can enlighten your self-understanding and improve your conflict resolution skills.”

Want More? Earn an MS in Marketing Online.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to be more effective in your career, think about earning a master’s degree in marketing. Delivered in an online learning format, Walden’s MS in Marketing program is an ideal option for busy working professionals who need the flexibility and convenience of earning a master’s degree from anywhere, at any time.

In addition to building your leadership skills, a master’s degree program is a great way to brush up your skills on the latest technologies and strategies used in today’s marketing and communication campaigns. Online classes cover topics such as digital marketing, brand management, social media strategy, influencer marketing, and more.

By furthering your college education with a master’s degree, you can gain the skills and knowledge needed to advance your marketing career.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Marketing online degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.

1Source: “What is Your Conflict Style? Understanding and Dealing With Your Conflict Style,” Keith Conerly and Arvind Tripathi; The Journal for Quality and Participation; Summer 2004; 27, 2; ProQuest Central.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,