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Workplace Conflicts

Workplace Conflict: Causes, Consequences, and Resolutions


Workplace diversity is demanded and appreciated these days. This means that your workplace will inculcate people with different backgrounds and experiences. This means that their expertise and perspectives will also vary shaped by their particular circumstances. When people having different personalities share a workplace culture and get into workplace communication, the possibility of clashes increases. These discussions can turn hostile when they are being personalized and insecurities get triggered.

“In conflict, be fair and generous.” – Lao Tzu

The consequences of such an inimical workplace environment are often impulsive affecting individuals with workplace anxiety and it sometimes even takes the shape of workplace discrimination. The workplace conflict makes the situation uncomfortable for both the employee and employer.  These can’t be avoided, however, they are not something to be fearful of.

Therefore, we choose to address this very prevalent issue of workplace conflict. If they are resolved within time, they can bring a positive change introducing better ideas and understandings. Get insights about the workplace conflict definition, workplace conflict examples, causes of workplace conflict, types of workplace conflict, and workplace conflict resolution.

Key Takeaways

  • Workplace diversity brings different backgrounds and experiences, leading to varying expertise and perspectives.
  • Conflicts arise from differing personalities, goals, and interests, making them a natural part of workplace communication.
  • Common types of conflicts include work style differences, innovative idea disputes, personality clashes, leadership conflicts, discrimination, and interdependence issues.
  • Effective conflict resolution strategies involve recognizing the problem, gathering data, self-reflection, identifying root causes, and practicing active listening.

Workplace Conflict Definition

A workplace conflict is defined as any form of contention between coworkers or managers and workers at an office. The major reason is the difference of opinions, opposing ideas, personalities, beliefs, and interests of individuals. The conflictual ideas are normal until they are conveyed to the other person respectfully in a pleasant manner but when they become unpleasant, unlawful, or unprofessional it becomes workplace conflict. Workplace conflict is an umbrella term that includes many sub-categories of workplace conflict like labor-management conflict, employment conflict, etc.

According to Kazimoto, workplace conflict definition says it to be a natural part of communication manifesting friction among individuals. It arises when differing goals, interests, or values of individuals or groups clash, hindering each other’s objectives within an organization. A workplace conflict might include:

  1. Physical altercations
  2. Substandard performance
  3. Communication breakdown
  4. Insults and offensive language
  5. Non-collaborative behavior
  6. Conflicting viewpoints

Workplace Conflict Examples

Workplace conflicts are a major reason behind employee turnover as a survey conducted in 2019 on thirty thousand workers indicated that one in three people quit jobs because of this very reason. Workplace conflict examples can include the job of an accountant. The accountant relies on all employees to submit their reports timely. The reason is that he will not be able to complete his task until he has all the numbers. He will not be able to meet deadlines because of someone else’s fault. So, this might pave the way for an interdependence conflict which is discussed later in the blog.

Causes of Workplace Conflict

Unrealistic expectations lead to hopelessness and frustration. Every employee at work has certain needs and expectations that they want their office to address. However, if realistic expectations and needs are ignored, this becomes the prime cause of workplace conflict. Some other causes of workplace conflict include the following:

  1. Inequitable treatment
  2. Ineffective leadership
  3. Poor workplace communication
  4. Insufficient training
  5. Ambiguous job responsibilities and roles
  6. Workplace Abuse
  7. Overwhelming workloads
  8. Ineffective communication
  9. Unsatisfactory work conditions
  10. Workplace Bullying
  11. Resource scarcity
  12. Unequal opportunity access
  13. Workplace Harassment
  14. Major alterations to products, organizational structures, evaluations, or compensation systems

Types of Workplace Conflict

Workplace conflicts are hardly identical and they may vary depending on their nature forming many different types of workplace conflict. Below we have discussed a few situations with the associated types of workplace conflict:

  1. Work Style Conflicts

Many people work at a workplace and all have different characteristics and qualities. They all go for different work styles according to their preferences. The different work styles that can become a cause of workplace conflict can include a preference to work alone, group work, minimal guidance to finish tasks, continuous feedback and direction, and pressure for more productivity, whereas others prefer to complete their work ahead of time. When people adoring different work styles have to work together under some different work style they may feel annoyed giving rise to a conflict.

  1. Conflicts over Innovative Concepts

Workplaces usually conduct brainstorming activities before any event to involve everyone in it and get creative ideas in a candid manner. Although this is an excellent opportunity to make the ideas innovative but usually employees do not have enough patience to listen to someone else’s voice. Nobody is ready to compromise and collaborate to agree on a single idea instead they get into an argument. Some try to influence final decisions by reflecting their seniority while others mostly young members indicate them as technical individuals having a modern approach.

  1. Personality-Based Conflicts

We have been repeating again and again that we are all different and shaped by varied settings and societal factors. But a workplace is different from a personal space where you can avoid the person who does not fall on your taste but at a workplace, you are obliged to work with people who own very opposite personalities from you. Conflicts emerge when one employee is not ready to consider the justification of the other person or does not hold empathy but is quick to judge.

  1. Leadership Conflicts

Leadership styles vary with the preferences of leaders. Leaders may exhibit a dynamic and charismatic approach, a highly technical and deadline-focused method, a relaxed and approachable demeanor, or an entirely absent presence. Contrary to this, all members of the team react differently to these different leadership styles. Conflicts emerge when the team members do not like or understand the particular leadership style.

  1. Discrimination

Workplace discrimination is a prevalent problem more than anyone can ever feel. Most of the employees face it due to one reason or another. They might be discriminated against or harassed because of their gender, age, ethnicity, race, or any other attribute. This is the most serious type of workplace conflict that emerges due to the narrow-minded approach of colleagues or employers.

  1. Interdependence Conflicts

This is the task-based conflict that arises when teams are formulated and compelled to work together on one project. This requires all team members to cooperate to ensure the flow of information for the successful completion of the project. If a few members are not responsive, and the entire team suffers because of them then they might encounter a conflict.

Workplace Conflict Resolution

Max Lucado carefully puts in, “Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional”. Workplace conflicts can’t be eliminated fully because the interaction of different people comes with varied opinions. However, the intensification of conflicts into major problems can be controlled by addressing the root cause. Certain strategies for workplace conflict resolution can be put into practice to evade workplace stress, absenteeism, less job satisfaction, poor productivity, and low morale.

Thomas says the best way to eliminate workplace conflicts is to limit interactions with other people. However, we disagree with this as practically you can’t refuse to carry out workplace communication. So, the better way is to find out workplace conflict resolution to deal with the clashes. We have elaborated a few workplace conflict resolution approaches following Casper Hansen’s saying, “Establishing conflict management processes in a company is fundamental, as it helps reduce conflict instances among employees.”

  1. Consider the issue

The first step in resolving any conflict is acknowledging that the problem exists. Ignoring the problem might bring instant pleasure but an unaddressed issue for a longer term only worsens. Recognizing the problem is important because if you know something exists and it needs to be improved only then you can work to find solutions. Firstly, calm down and know that the issue is there for which you have to come up with a plan.

  1. Collect preliminary data

Another important strategy in workplace conflict resolution is gathering initial information to investigate a particular case. One should take enough time to know everything about the conflict and then give a final verdict that should not be biased. You can separately ask the parties in a conflict about the happening and also involve any third party who was an eyewitness to this. These meetings should be kept confidential and the decision should be a result of all viewpoints.

  1. Self-Reflect

If anyone desires to resolve a workplace conflict, it is necessary to understand the other side of the story. You need to have a forgiving posture because everyone is prone to making mistakes.

  1. Identify the root cause of the conflict

You also need to hit the root cause of the conflict which is the main step in solving any conflict. It clarifies many assumptions and confusions. Some of the most common root causes include lack of expected skills, lack of autonomy, absence of communication, inadequate information, opposing values, remote work, etc.

  1. Active Listening

Active listening is another main element in workplace conflict resolution because it gives you insight into the other side of the story. If you attentively listen to the feelings of the other person, you might develop empathy for them making a positive workplace culture.


Workplace conflict is an inevitable aspect of any diverse work environment due to the mix of personalities, goals, and interests. However, these conflicts can be managed constructively. By acknowledging the issues, understanding different perspectives, and employing effective conflict resolution strategies, organizations can transform conflicts into opportunities for growth and innovation, ultimately enhancing overall performance and workplace harmony.

Frequently Asked Questions About Workplace Conflict

  1. What is workplace conflict and why does it occur?

Workplace conflict refers to any disagreement between coworkers or managers and workers, typically arising from differing goals, interests, or values.

  1. What are the common causes of workplace conflict?

Common causes of workplace conflict include inequitable treatment, ineffective leadership, poor communication, insufficient training, ambiguous job roles, and overwhelming workloads.

  1. What effects does workplace conflict have on employee well-being and performance?

Workplace conflict can lead to anxiety, discomfort, reduced productivity, and increased employee turnover. It creates an unpleasant work environment, causing stress and dissatisfaction, which can negatively impact overall performance and morale.

  1. How do differences in work styles contribute to conflicts among coworkers?

Differences in work styles can cause conflicts when individuals with varying preferences for working alone or in groups, requiring different levels of guidance, and handling productivity pressures have to collaborate. These differences can lead to annoyance and friction when people are forced to adapt to styles they are not comfortable with.

  1. What are some workplace conflict examples?

Workplace conflict examples include disagreements over work styles, conflicts about innovative concepts, personality clashes, leadership style disputes, and issues related to discrimination.

  1. Why is acknowledging a problem the first step in resolving conflicts?

Recognizing the issue allows for a focused and informed approach to find solutions, preventing the problem from worsening.

  1. Why is it important to acknowledge a problem when addressing workplace conflicts?

Acknowledging a problem is the first step toward resolving conflicts because it allows for a focused and informed approach to find solutions. Ignoring the problem may provide temporary relief, but unaddressed issues can worsen over time, leading to more significant conflicts.

  1. Why is effective communication crucial in preventing and resolving workplace conflicts?

Effective communication is essential to prevent misunderstandings and frustrations that can lead to conflicts. Clear and open communication ensures that all team members understand their roles, responsibilities, and the expectations placed upon them, which helps in mitigating potential conflicts.

  1. What is the significance of communication in workplace conflict?

Poor communication can cause misunderstandings and frustrations, leading to breakdowns in teamwork and escalating conflicts.

  1. How can active listening facilitate the resolution of workplace disputes?

Active listening helps in understanding the other party’s perspective, fostering empathy, and creating a positive environment for resolving disputes. By attentively listening to the viewpoints of others, conflicts can be addressed more effectively, promoting a collaborative workplace culture.

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