An Essential Guide to Resolving Conflict in the Workplace

workplace conflict

James Madison, one of America’s founding fathers and the 4th President country, may have said it best. If men were angels, we would need no laws. And it speaks a lot of truth. Who would need to put people in line if they follow the rules? Of course, that’s all wishful thinking. Not only are men not angels, but men’s laws are also flawed to some degree.

This is no more apparent than in the workplace. Whether you like it or not, conflict is bound to arise when people work together. To boot, their ideas will clash. Secondly, their personalities are bound to oppose one another, trampling feelings and hurting egos in the long run.

Workplace conflict is ugly. It can bring out the worst versions in people. What’s more, it is counterproductive. Conflict, if unresolved, is a formula for a toxic workplace, study shows. And when people are not working with one another, productivity drops, and creativity simmers. It’s best, therefore, that conflicts be resolved as soon as they appear.

The good news is finding resolution need not be an uphill climb. Identifying the root of the problem and putting in the proper intervention should work. Of course, taking things to court is not wise. As you are wont to find, it can be counterproductive, not to mention a waste of your precious dollars.

Conflict and Its Most Common Causes
workplace anger

Identifying the root of the conflict can save you many lost hours and failed attempts at reconciliation. Mostly conflicts at work sprout from these common causes:

  • Too Much Competition

Healthy competition is an excellent measure to encourage talent to thrive. Internal hacking competitions mean coders in a company can put their best foot forward, for instance. The problem comes when colleagues are focused so much on winning they resort to dirty tricks such as name-calling, bullying, and threats. In short, team collaboration suffers.

  • Personality Clashes

Every employee has their own style, their own personality. The challenge of a business is to ensure each style fits the whole and works as one. Conflicts come when personalities clash. Different styles could mean what works in communicating to one may not work for another.

  • Discrimination

This is a big one. When issues such as pay come up, it can eat at a worker’s morale. Unfortunately, pay equality is still a prevalent issue in America. Not only is there a racist gap in pay, but there’s also the gender gap where men are paid more than women.

Aside from all that, there’s discrimination based on age and disability. If not handled correctly, such practices can lead to worker divisions and, thereby, conflict.

  • Poor Communication

The workplace can be a hard place. All that talks about productivity means everyone has to do their part to make the goal happen. With that, each department must work seamlessly like the hands of a clock. Along the way, however, communication could fail, which can spark conflicts.

Mending Bridges


Think of conflicts as a spark. If you don’t cater to it right, fires could break out. So it’s paramount you handle them right. When things go out of hand, conflicts can tear employees apart, leaving you with employees that won’t give their best to a company endeavor.

You must encourage an open-door policy. Managers should not be aloof and unapproachable. Instead, workers should feel that their issues can be heard when conflicts arise.

In addition, you need to stick to the issue at hand. Avoid labeling people when you hear them out. You should separate whatever problem is at hand from the persons in question. That way, you can delve into workplace issues without having to step on anyone’s toes.

If you feel a conflict is getting out of hand, you can always use an impartial mediator from the company. An HR rep is a good start or a manager of another division. By hearing both sides impartially, solutions can be had.

Remember, though, that there are professionals who can help resolve workplace conflicts. If worse comes to worst, arbitration and mediation services, for one, can look into the issues at hand and resolve whatever conflicts and disputes that arise from the workplace. These experts ensure the aggrieved party is given the justice he deserves without having to go to court.

Workplace Matters

The best way to handle conflict is to ensure they don’t happen in the first place. Team building programs and leadership seminars can go a long way in developing camaraderie amongst workers.

Additionally, the workplace itself plays a central role in minimizing conflict. Equal pay and the right incentives for productivity are a good start, along with proper new employee orientation. Plus, setting things up so that workers can positively interact with one another on and off work is paramount.

It’s no surprise Google is a top employer. Not only does the company provide top salaries, but its workplace also crawls with balanced work-life set-ups where workers can hang out and relax (e.g., gym, table tennis areas).

Right from the get-go, it’s essential that you set clear expectations. That means communicating what is expected of each employee and what roles will be delegated to them. In this regard, a manager should, therefore, in a clear manner, outline what the critical aspects of an assigned task to a subordinate (e.g., deadline, submission details) are.

Best of all, you need to redesign your workplace. Take the lead from Google. It’s all about processes and protocols. If you encourage teamwork in the workplace, chances are people will set it as a clear sign working together is a must and not just an option. Chances are, people will be proud working there with you.

About the Author

Scroll to Top