A Guide To Workplace Conflict Management

A Guide To Workplace Conflict Management

 workplace conflict can lead to a lot of stress, ill will and loss of productivity. Read on to understand some basic tips to resolve such conflicts and make your work environment more harmonious

Why Do Conflicts Happen In The Workplace?

In any fast paced and growth oriented organization, conflicts are commonplace. After all, each employee has certain expectations from their own role and that of their team members. When they feel that these expectations are not being met, it is quite likely to lead to a conflict. But this might be oversimplifying a broad concept. One thing is for certain, workplace conflicts can result in disruption of the normal workflow and significant loss in productivity. 

There can be several generic or specific reasons for workplace conflict. Some of the common ones are:

  • Personality Related: As per a report by the Consulting Psychologists Press (CPP Inc), now known as The Myers-Briggs Company, almost half of the conflicts at workplaces (around 49%) are related to personality and ego clashes among employees. It is no surprise then that modern companies have been laying a huge amount of importance to hiring the right personality mix for their organizations. 
  • Workload and Stress Related: The second biggest factor, as per the report, is due to stress at the workplace and imbalance of workload. 34% of the respondents claimed that workplace stress can result in frequent conflicts among colleagues while 33% stated that unequal work distribution and too much work without enough support are a cause for conflict.
  • Management Related: The study goes on to state that 29% of workplace conflicts occur due to poor management and leadership. A lack of accountability and clear direction, not leading by example and an attitude of insensitivity or prejudice are the leading causes that can cause direct conflict between managers and employees.
  • Communication Related: Communication in a work environment occurs in a variety of ways. 26% people claim that lack of open communication and clear objective setting is an imminent cause of conflict. In multinational organizations, conflicts are also known to occur due to a lack of understanding of the other’s cultures and customs. Unclear role definitions are also a big source of confusion and conflict amongst employees.
  • Miscellaneous: There are several other small or seemingly insignificant reasons that can cause big disruptions in your workplace. This can include poor infrastructure, inappropriate behavior, issues pertaining to harassment, perceived discrimation, etc.

Set The Ground Rules Before Conflicts

Ground rules are the set of standards that employees need to adhere to avoid and / or resolve conflicts. More than an actual, they are the advocated code of conduct for the workplace. Each organization has a form or unspoken culture ingrained, and the ground rules help maintain a healthy decorum as well as continued productivity of the employees. 

Ground rules, or protocols, aim to treat all participants fairly without any discirimation or prejudice. Much like a civil court, the conflict resolution process needs to be devoid of any bias of any form or shape. It is only when people feel that they will be heard and treated fairly that they tend to open up. This open communication helps get you to the root cause of the conflict. 

Be Transparent And Communicate Effectively

Rules around open and transparent communication is something that every organization aspires to achieve. But with a multicultural workforce, it is not as easy as it seems. In the heat of the moment, people tend to let go of their civility and conflicts can become bitter and personal in extreme cases. A culture of open and effective communication is known to stem such mishaps.

An important aspect of communication often ignored is active listening. Hearing the other person’s account of the situation is equally important in managing workplace conflicts. It is equally important to ask the right sort of questions that lead to an amicable resolution instead of flaring-up the situation and leading to finger pointing and the blame game. As a manager or a mediator, careful observation and patience are two virtues that are invaluable.

Don’t Judge Those Who Have Different Outlook

An almost innate human attribute is to resist that which is different. This can lead to a disagreement of opinion and at worse a heated conflict. Employees need to be sensitized to have an open mind and not jump to conclusions with those who disagree with them. This can also be achieved by imparting training on cultural sensitivity, active listening, and other developmental aspects that can boost your workforce and their ability to be understanding of different views, outlooks and stand points. 


Whether you are an HR practitioner, a line manager or an acting mediator, dealing with workplace conflict can be a discomforting experience. However, a stitch in time saves nine. In other words, avoiding dealing with conflict can result in escalated issues that can disrupt your entire workplace, even those who were not directly involved in the conflict to begin with. 

It is important to realize that conflicts are unavoidable and in several cases can be healthy. A disagreement of ideas can result in meaningful debates that can produce something far superior than originally envisaged. Innovation cannot happen when all parties agree with each other. 

The same study by The Myers-Briggs Company went on to note that 95% of the employees who underwent conflict management training claimed it helped them find positive conflict resolutions. This is when conflicts do not enflare, instead they result in healthy dialog that can benefit all involved. You cannot hope for a better win-win than this.



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