What Causes Workplace Conflict and How to Resolve It in Six Steps

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When employees of various backgrounds join one company, workplace conflict is nearly inevitable. Although they have a shared business purpose, they also have different approaches to getting things done.

Workplace conflict may occur, but it should be managed and resolved in the best way possible.

Emotional stress takes over and quickly diminish the employee value proposition some workers appreciated about working for your company.

Resolving conflict – or avoiding it altogether – can occur if steps are taken in the early stages.

Common Causes of Workplace Conflict

There are many causes of workplace conflict such as personality differences and behaviors regarded as irritating by some coworkers. It can be as simple as not covering one’s mouth while coughing. The one committing the offensive behavior may not even be aware of what they are doing, or not doing.

Some conflicts that arise are directly related to the job. Unclarified roles or poor implementation of a job description can make employees feel the playing field is not leveled. Any perceived inequities of resources are exacerbated from existing feelings of disparity.

Management should be aware of practices that can create tension and conflict. Placing a nonsupervisory employee in an unofficial role of supervising coworkers may cause some to rebel.

Organizational changes and transitions should be managed properly. This includes systemic circumstances such as layoffs, a merger or acquisition or a workforce slowdown. Not communicating with employees throughout each step fosters an atmosphere of uncertainty.

Once mistrust sets in, some employees may start venting their frustrations against coworkers.

Any time employees think their needs are not being met at work, productivity may suffer. Poor communication between coworkers can also lead to taking comments and remarks out of context. Without a mechanism in place to help them work through differences in a productive manner, the conflict will disrupt departments and workflows.

There are numerous ways people brought together may clash. Some hurl insults and refuse to cooperate with co-workers. Others resort to bullying and anger to express their displeasure. Regardless, negative effects include:

Absenteeism
• Decreased productivity
• Project failure
• Work disruptions
• Turnover

Create a Culture to Discourage Disruptive Conflict

A good way to manage workplace conflict is to create a culture within the company designed to prevent disruptive disagreements as much as possible.



Existing employees are the most powerful display of what it’s like to work for your company. Their role in attracting culturally-fit talent is tremendous for the type of atmosphere you want to project. Therefore, it is important that employees see consistency in the day-to-day reality at your company.

By incorporating employee value proposition into the company’s internal communications, policies and reward systems, employees determine if the external image matches what they experience.

Dealing with conflict equitably and promptly is critical to maintaining this mage. If employees cannot resolve problems among themselves, you should have systems in place to manage the conflict.

For example, make sure communication practices and company policies are consistent and clear to everybody. The rationale behind any business decision should be transparent.

Another way to create a positive organizational culture is by ensuring all employees are held accountable for resolving a conflict. Managers play a role, but should not be expected to formally mediate every disagreement.

The worse approach is ignoring conflict, which is equivalent to not meeting your employees’ needs. No matter how trivial an issue may appear, dismissing it could cause the situation to fester and explode at an inopportune time.



Even if it requires management training, make sure those in supervisory roles seek to understand underlying emotions some employees may have about a situation. Approaches to resolving conflict depend on surrounding circumstances that should be addressed to effectively resolve the problem.

Conflict Resolution: A Six-Step Process

Here are six steps of conflict resolution that you and your employees can apply.

1. Clarify the disagreement.

The goal of this first step is getting both sides to agree on the heart of the conflict. This may involve discussing needs not being met on both sides. Ensure mutual understanding by obtaining as much information as possible on all points of view.

If necessary, continue to ask questions to make sure all involved parties understand the issue.

2. Work towards a common goal.

Now, both sides should agree on the desired outcome. The idea is to get people working towards the same goal. This can foster authentic participation in working towards a resolution. As a starting point, discuss what each side wants to see happen.

Find a commonality and begin working towards it throughout the next four steps.

3. Discuss ways the common goal can be reached.

Each side should listen, communicate and brainstorm ways they can meet a common goal.

4. Identify possible barriers to meeting the common goal.

Agreeing on a common goal does not mean that there are no barriers to reaching it. Both sides must acknowledge what caused the conflict and talk about what could prevent a resolution. This allows everyone to be proactive in having plans to handle issues before they derail the process.

5. Agree on the best resolution.

Identify agreeable solutions for both sides. Find common ground and begin discussing each party’s responsibility in maintaining the solution. This is also an opportunity to ensure this conflict does not happen again.

6. Acknowledge the solution and responsibilities of each person in the resolution.

Ownership in resolving the conflict is essential for lasting change. Keep win-win at the forefront.

Use HR Recruitment Software for Conflict Resolution

The right mechanisms can resolve conflict during the early stages. Lowering the turnover rate from unresolved issues can begin by using HR recruitment software during the hiring stage.

This type of software can be an asset to matching the right employees with the company’s culture. The system also becomes another avenue for communication and give employees opportunities to have meaningful discussions before starting conflicts.

The challenge to dealing with conflict is in how employees choose to deal with it. In a well-functioning work environment, employees always communicate with respectful language. They are tolerant and accept the differences of coworkers.

Employees find it easy to demonstrate respect for all, regardless of tenure, status or title. This is a message you want to send throughout your company.

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By | 2018-02-15T00:20:59+00:00 February 15th, 2018|Categories: Career, Lifestyle, Social life|Tags: , , |0 Comments

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