6 Common Workplace Conflicts and How to Deal with Them

09 / 27 / 18 | Employers

Conflict is inevitable – it’s a fact of life.

No two people are the same, and when our different motivations, processes, and goals clash, conflicts arise. Conflict isn’t always something to fear, however, because out of conflict comes change. When resolved properly, conflicts can lead to better ideas, better understanding, and better working relationships.

Through considerate conflict resolution in the workplace, companies and their employees can improve themselves.

6 Workplace Conflicts and Resolutions

So many conflicts in life are caused by a lack of or poor communication, and the workplace is no different. Misunderstandings, closed-mindedness, and passive-aggressive behavior all contribute to the following workplace conflicts.

1. Interdependence/Task-Based Conflicts

Task based conflicts

These disagreements arise in situations when individuals in an interdependent project network must coordinate their tasks so that everyone can successfully get their part done. For example, an accountant can’t do their job without all the numbers. If an employee is constantly late with their reports, it affects the accountant’s ability to finish up and make deadlines.

The solution? Delegate tasks effectively. Communicate with the team the importance of responsibility and accountability. Clarify what everyone should be doing in their role so they’re all on the same page when deadlines approach.

2. Leadership Conflicts

Everybody has a different leadership style, and everybody reacts differently to those leadership styles. Some leaders are bold and charismatic, others are more laid-back, warm, and inviting. Some are highly technical and strict on rules and deadlines, and others are so hands-off you hardly see them.

To solve potential conflicts, you should emphasize mutual respect of differences throughout the company. Also, leaders should be aware of their own leaderships styles and how they interact with the work styles and personalities of people on their team. They should be able to adjust and connect with their employees no matter their leadership preferences.

Again, we’re all different – it’s not something we can escape.

3. Work Style Conflicts

Work style conflict

Just as there are different leadership styles, there are different work styles. Some people prefer to work in groups while others do their best work alone. Some people need no extra direction to complete a task, while others like external input and direction every step of the way. Some people get more work done under pressure, and others like to knock their tasks out early.

The same idea of mutual respect and understanding applies here, as well as throughout all workplace conflicts and any interaction involving other people. We may prefer a particular work style, but sometimes in groups, teams must collaborate to come up with an idea greater than one mind could think up alone – meaning they have to learn to deal with each other’s differences.

4. Personality-Based Conflicts

Say it with me again: We are all different. We’re not always going to like everyone we meet, and it’s not easy to work with someone whose personality we find distasteful. It’s helpful to remember that who we perceive someone to be is not necessarily who they actually are. This circles back to the theme of empathy and understanding. Don’t let what you’ve seen define everything you’ll think about someone in the future.

It’s all about the story you tell. Imagine someone cuts you off on the highway. You’d probably be thinking about how they’re a rude, brainless jerk. Now imagine you’re late for work or you’re taking your sick child to the doctor, or that you have to go to the bathroom immediately and you end up cutting someone off while driving. You know the justification behind your actions, but the person you cut off is sitting there thinking you’re a rude, brainless jerk.

5. Discrimination

This is where workplace conflict gets more serious, and where human resources might have to get involved. If there’s harassment or discrimination going on due to age, race, ethnicity, gender, or what have you, there’s a serious need for the company to explicitly emphasize open-mindedness, acceptance, and understanding.

We can all learn to coexist.

6. Creative Idea Conflict

Conflict when it comes to idea brainstorming is actually an excellent opportunity to make the idea even better. Employees need to recognize the ideas of others, voice their own, and then gather the best pieces together for a stunning solution.

If two individuals were disagreeing on a project idea, they could talk to each other and cooperatively decide on one idea or the other. They could also look for compromise so both ideas can shine through while producing an even better outcome spawning from the collaboration. If needed, they could approach another colleague or a higher-up to mediate the discussion or offer their opinion on the final decision.

We learn and grow through competition, when handled properly.

Why Conflict Resolution in the Workplace Is Important

Leaving conflict unresolved can cause serious problems to workplace morale, productivity, and company culture. No one wants to work in a tense, passive-aggressive environment where they’re constantly uncomfortable. When people don’t want to be at work, it shows: higher staff turnover, more sick days, and poor job performance.

In more serious cases, prolonged conflict can lead to legal problems.

Conflict Resolution Steps for the Workplace: A Summary

1. Calm Down

The first step is to calm down and accept the reality of conflict. Next, come up with a plan to deal with the problem by talking with the other person(s) involved before the tension grows into something unbearable between you.

Don’t let the situation get passive-aggressive. Tackle the conflict before it gets that far. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Say what you need to say without yelling or snark, and remember, there are two sides to every story. What you’ve been experiencing during your interactions with another may not always be what they were experiencing during their interactions with you. Open your mind to other points of view. Accept ahead of time that you’re not always in the right.

2. Communicate via Active Listening

It’s not only important to get together and talk, it’s important to get together and listen. Tap into your empathy and have a dialogue with each other. Don’t avoid it.

Have a sit-down somewhere and make sure both of you have a chance to say everything you need to say. Don’t just wait for your turn to talk, really listen to the other person. Be attentive to their words and try to think how they think and feel how they feel. Ask questions to make sure you understood what they meant to say, and not just what you thought they were saying.

Active listening is critically important to true conflict resolution. We all like to feel like we’ve been heard.

3. Self-Reflect and Resolve Conflict

Like Atticus Finch said in Harper Lee‘s To Kill a Mockingbird, “If you can learn a simple trick … you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.””

Self-reflect on both sides of the situation. It helps to see from the other person’s point of view and helps you to understand what they’re thinking and feeling so you can resolve the conflict.

Focus on where you agree and not so much on where you disagree.

Be forgiving – we’re all only human. We make mistakes and we misinterpret situations. If we all have empathy for each other, we can resolve conflicts and help build each other into better people.

Need Help Resolving Conflicts at Work?

You can reduce workplace conflicts through coaching, consulting, and leadership development training. You can also work to reduce conflict by properly vetting the right talent. Let Atlas Staffing do the hiring for you, so that you can focus energy on developing your team. Contact us today to start the conversation.


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