Why Conflict Happens in the Workplace

Working with other people has its ups and downs. A team can accomplish tasks faster and more effectively. Having someone to talk to during coffee runs and water cooler chats can also make the workday more bearable and go faster. On the flip side, conflicts and misunderstandings can inevitably arise due to people of different life experiences and situations sharing space in the office. Some conflicts are easily solved, like misplaced staplers and StazOn ink pads. But there are also long-standing disputes due to power struggles and weaknesses in company culture and processes.

Anyone who has worked on meaningful and innovative projects can attest to the impact of conflict on employee efficiency and productivity. Motivation goes down the drain if you are constantly witnessing or become a part of passive-aggressive conversations, toxic gossip, and side-taking.

Managers should take the initiative to prevent and solve disagreements as early as possible. Conflicts, if left to fester, can cost companies approximately $359 billion in paid hours (based on the average hourly earnings of $17.95), according to consulting company CPP. The focus is on navigating the drama instead of the actual work.

Conflict poses a challenge for both employers and employees, with far-reaching impact on performance. But for solutions and preventive measures to be effective, it is vital to know which kind of conflict plagues one’s workplace.

Competition for limited resources

Money, time, energy, and opportunities are all finite. Employees have to be smart in maximizing resources to achieve the best possible outcome. This can lead to people competing for the same resources, which can plant seeds of envy and animosity. Each person only thinks of themselves: how to advance their own agenda and get that promotion. This mentality is the reason the corporate world has earned the title of a dog-eat-dog world.

Clear policies on career development and company prioritization can help mitigate conflict created due to competition. If employees can see that they can advance the career ladder without underhanded tactics, they are less likely to concentrate on putting down other colleagues and concentrate on achieving the company’s goals, instead.

Differing beliefs and personalities

People bring with them different perceptions, backgrounds, and preferences in the workplace. This diversity makes a company stronger because other points of view can be explored to reach the most effective solution. However, moments of tension are expected. A level of mutual respect is crucial in handling differences in approach and opinion. Conflict becomes unhealthy when attacks become personal instead of on the ideas and behavior.

Setting the tone for a healthy workplace is a crucial work for managers. It is their responsibility to be unbiased and aim to hear both sides of the story. Only factual information should be considered, instead of discriminating against a person’s character and beliefs.

Poor communication and quick assumptions

Communication is key to every project. It sets expectations and delivers information that other people will need to do their work. If someone doesn’t communicate well, the message can be misinterpreted, which can lead to mistakes and wasted effort. The receiver of the message can also contribute to miscommunication if they are quick to assume instead of aiming for clarification.

Employees can avoid miscommunication by being clear and concise. It wouldn’t hurt to repeat the message verbally or send out a written summary. Quick check-ins can also help in making sure everyone in the team understands what they’re supposed to do and if any problems arise.

Conflict is inevitable to happen. It is part of how a company, and society in general, grows and achieves good results. The key is to understand how conflict can happen and create measures to ensure they can be dealt with calm and respect.

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