Managing workplace conflict
Header logo

Conflict often occurs when people have different interests, opinions, or ideas. When conflict isn't dealt with properly, it can damage the employees’ spirit, which makes workplace absenteeism increase and team productivity decrease. Conflict may also arise when communicating online, especially when it’s the only form of communication for most of us. While keeping in mind the challenges of the pandemic, we must always be considerate of people’s well-being as these are trying times. Facing the challenge of resolving conflicts allows getting creative and preventing a situation from ending in chaos and destruction. Knowing this, signing up for programs like the 10X Impact Program will help you develop your interpersonal skills, which will guarantee your control over such situations.


When managers have to spend time resolving conflicts in the workplace, office performance can be negatively affected. Earlier approaches to conflict management assumed that all conflict was bad and counterproductive. In recent decades, however, workplace conflict has become understood as a natural occurrence that can be used positively. Today, organizations should not only accept conflict but encourage it. When handled positively, conflict could build a more creative, innovative, and successful team effort.



Sources of Workplace Conflict

Conflict may arise from several sources—from minor issues as who has the best team, to power struggles that create conflict within a group or team. Employees with control issues may try to gain influence over other employees by illegitimate means; they may stand firm on their opinions, or be unwilling to negotiate and intentionally create a negative conflict.


Conflicts in goal differences are a natural part of the workplace since employees, groups, and teams all have their own goals to work toward. Setting a common goal for the organization, one that depends on all the members reaching their own goals, is one way to reduce such conflicts.


Differences in beliefs, values, attitudes, and personalities may create conflict between individuals in the workplace. As organizations lean toward a multicultural workforce, cultural conflicts can occur between employees of different ethnic groups.


Poor communication can be a major cause of conflict between employees or different departments in the organization. Different styles in body language or writing and speaking can cause misunderstanding and misperception, same as gender or ethnicity.


When an important task is ignored and the project falls behind schedule, there will probably be some finger-pointing if everyone feels it was someone else's responsibility to perform the task. The uncertainty will damage morale and effective teamwork. Clearly defined duties will eliminate a lot of conflicts when everyone knows their duties.


Managing Workplace Conflict

There are two ways to deal with conflict: you can avoid it or face it. The manager may choose to temporarily ignore minor conflicts and wait to see if they resolve them themselves. For example, personal disputes might best be left alone to give the employees time to work things out on their own. Constantly dealing with slight issues gives the manager less time to deal with larger issues. This might negatively affect the workplace and the success of the business. However, if these minor issues remain unsolved and become disruptive, then the manager needs to step in and help the employees involved to work out their problem.


Some conflicts that result from crossing points of view won't be resolved if they are ignored. For example, one employee may feel his ideas are always being thrown aside and that he doesn't have a voice in the workplace. Clearing the air by listening to what the employee has to say can resolve this type of conflict. When two or more employees have a conflict with one another and refuse to speak or listen to each other, the manager may call them into a private meeting and give each one a chance to state his or her opinion. They may have to be forced to listen to one another but should be able to find a common ground once they have heard what the other employee has to say.


When two parties have a conflict and each seems to have a reasonable point of view, the manager can help them reach a settlement in which both of them get, and give up, some of what they want. The manager must help them come to a fair agreement, an agreement that each one is satisfied with.


Sometimes an employee may be unwilling to compromise. Conflicts can become overly emotional and may need to be de-escalated before the problem becomes more severe and adversely affects the workplace environment. The manager who wants to de-escalate an emotional conflict must require employees to negotiate in a calm, rational manner, treating each other with respect while opposing viewpoints are heard. Anyone who tries to de-escalate the emotional level of the meeting should be asked to leave. Once the parties have reasonably discussed their conflict, they may be able to come up with a compromise on their own.


The 5 As Technique


The Five As' technique is designed to resolve conflict in a constructive way, where each person involved gets a chance to be heard and be part of the resolution process.



 The people who are involved in the conflict should decide together which conflict-handling method will work best for their situation. They decide what they want and identify the areas where they are willing to negotiate.



 Each person should try to actively listen to and discuss each other's point of view. They don't necessarily have to agree with what the other is saying but should acknowledge the validity of their position.



 Communication styles can vary between individuals, genders, and cultures. The purpose of a message may be misinterpreted due to stereotypical assumptions. Problem-causing differences in writing, speaking, and body language can be discussed between each other so they can clearly understand the meaning of the message.



 A conflict management method should be applied based on the points where both sides can agree. The individuals involved should be aware of their communication styles and behaviors to build trust and seek a productive solution as a cohesive team.



 The participants decide what they are going to do, summarize their resolutions, and review their agreements. Both sides should feel their issues have been addressed, even if their requirements haven't been met. This analysis allows them to follow up on the short-term and long-term results of the resolutions.


Unfortunately, there may be times when workplace conflicts can't be resolved by clearing the air, compromise, or de-escalation. This is when the manager may have to resolve the conflict by making his or her own decision and enforcing it on both sides. The threat of an enforced decision may encourage the employees to come up with a compromise on their own. Facing workplace conflict head-on and finding reasonable ways to overcome it improves the workplace environment and creates a culture of trust between employees at all levels of the organization.