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One factor that may harm the entire workflow of an office is a conflict between employees. Conflicts happen in the workplace, but when it grows into a full-blown argument, it can potentially damage a healthy relationship between two employees

Apart from that, it can even have a negative impact on a company’s entire work environment. Due to this reason, managers and employers go to great lengths to avoid conflict or at least reduce their severity.

Our brief guide on dealing with and avoiding workplace conflicts will come in handy the next time you experience a similar scenario at your place of work.

What is workplace conflict?

It’s natural for disagreements to arise when the interests, ideas and opinions of two or more people vary.

When such disagreements occur in a professional environment between employees, it’s known as a workplace conflict. These situations are common, but their commonality does not lessen their effect.

A workplace conflict tends to lower employee morale, reduce productivity, and create a toxic work environment. This is exactly why managers and supervisors overlook or ignore conflicts.

An ideal workplace has minimal cases of conflict and even if they do occur, they are resolved proactively.

4 Causes of Workplace Conflict

There are a number of causes that stir up conflicts in the workplace:

  1. Poor Communication

    Poor communication is one of the leading factors that contribute to conflict. Misunderstandings arise as a result of unclear communication which inevitably leads to conflict.
  2. Difference of Opinions

    Opinion clashes happen when people have varying values and interests. Every individual in a workplace has their own unique way or working. They might find it hard to adapt to a teammate or accept the difference.
  3. Resource Scarcity

    Resource scarcity in the workplace might make employees feel competitive. When a feeling of competition arises, conflict follows close behind.
  4. Personality Differences

    Personality differences are bound to occur in a workplace. They aren’t necessarily a problem but might become one when employees don’t understand and accept each other’s personalities.

4 Types of Workplace Conflict

  1. Team Conflict

    Team conflict arises when one person’s job for completing a project is dependent on another’s participation in the same. If the second person does not participate and do their part sufficiently, arguments may occur.
  2. Task Conflict

    Task conflict refers to a particular outcome of a task. Disagreements arise when there’s difficulty in deciding the content and result desired from the allocated task.
  3. Style Conflict

    Style conflict occurs when there’s a difference in how two employees go about completing their task. Some might be more focused on wrapping up the job while others may care more about the process.
  4. Relationship Conflict

    Relationship conflict is the most severe form of conflict since it arises out of personal feelings and emotions. They have the potential to leave deep scars and may permanently ruin a professional relationship.

A workplace conflict tends to lower employee morale, reduce productivity, and create a toxic work environment.

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Tips to Manage Workplace Conflict

Once a conflict has started, it helps for employees that are involved or those around them as well as supervisors to calm the situation before it escalates.

Dealing With Workplace Conflict as an Employee

  1. If you notice an argument brewing, don’t shy away from stepping in as a mediator. Colleague interference plays an important role in calming conflict before it becomes too extreme.
  2. It is also wise to notify your superior at the first instance of notice.
  3. Listen to both sides and don’t be biased. Even if you don’t have a solution, make them understand the importance of effective communication.

Dealing With Workplace Conflict as a Manager

  1. Conflict resolution is one of the most challenging scenarios faced by a manager. A manager must first have a clear mind and be aware of their own shortcomings. This allows them to rise above petty biases and look at the problem’s core.
  2. As a manager, you should strive to delegate tasks according to a person’s interests and skills. When people do the work they are genuinely interested in, workplace environment improves aka lesser conflicts.
  3. Instead of reprimanding employees, the manager should try to understand the reasons for conflict. Listen actively and offer a solution. This will help the manager avoid similar conflict in the future as well.

Tips to Avoid Conflict

Identify the Early Signs

Noticing employee behavior and expressions goes a long way in nipping conflict in the bud. Before a conflict arises, the concerned employee would have a dissatisfied or unhappy expression on their face.

Talk to the employee about what’s bothering them and offer help.

Contribute to a Peaceful Workplace Environment

An ideal peaceful workplace has enough resources for everyone. Employee satisfaction should always be prioritized. When employees are satisfied with their work and environment, they become more productive. In a productive and proactive environment, there is no place for conflict.

Be Accepting

Conflicts can be avoided by simply accepting each other’s differences. Employees must understand that each of their colleagues is an individual person, and no two people can be the same or have the same work ethic.

Practice Empathy

If you feel yourself getting angry about a teammate’s poor work performance, offer help instead of confronting them. They might be having a rough day or dealing with personal issues of their own. Empathy resolves troubles without getting into arguments.

Conclusion

Conflicts jeopardize our day-to-day motivation, productivity, and can even alter one’s career path. To make matters worse, it can also impact your life outside of work.

The stress and toxic negativity can take a toll on your health and relationships with family and friends. If you’re frequently experiencing conflicts at work, it’s critical to address it.

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About the writer

Headshot of Natasha Cornelius, a life insurance writer, for Quotacy, Inc.

Greg Lewerer

Director of Creative Strategy

Greg is Quotacy’s Director of Creative Strategy. He has an eclectic past from working on movie scripts to creating ad campaigns for major brands. His love of creative solutions drove him to strategy, and he now uses his powers to help families protect their loved ones. Outside of work, Greg spends his time off the grid hunting, fishing, camping, biking, hiking, and walking his dogs.