How to Deal With Conflict in the Workplace


Conflict can be a natural part of the human experience. It can be a valuable opportunity for individuals and groups to learn, grow and change. However, it is important to recognize that if conflict becomes destructive, it can have negative effects on everyone involved. Ultimately, it is up to the leaders of organisations to create an environment where conflicts are healthy and beneficial for all parties.

Conflict often arises from differences in values and interests, personality characteristics, culture, gender, religion, education, and working styles. In addition, conflicts may occur as a result of miscommunication and the inability to communicate effectively. Conflict also arises from the incompatibility of goals, objectives and expectations. For example, it is possible for a manager to have different goals for the department than the employees. In this case, the employees will probably have a hard time working together.

The incompatibility of goals is a major cause of conflict, but it can also be caused by the lack or scarcity of resources. These resources can be material or social (Van de Vliert, 1997). For example, if one person believes that they deserve to be treated fairly and another doesn’t, there is likely to be conflict. In addition, conflict can also be caused by the perception that there are not enough resources to go around, whether these are material or social.

People often get into trouble in the workplace because of their inability to work well with others. They are unable to understand or accept the other person’s viewpoint and can become defensive and argumentative. This can result in unproductive meetings or even physical confrontations. Fortunately, most conflicts can be avoided with effective communication skills.

Some of these communications problems are simple and easy to resolve. For instance, if you and a colleague have different working styles, you can schedule an informal meeting to discuss the issue and agree on new ways of working.

If the problem is more serious, it might be appropriate to contact a professional for advice. For example, many organizations have ombudspersons who are trained to handle conflicts. In addition, the company should have procedures in place for dealing with difficult employees.

Violence and war are unique kinds of conflict because they have three additional necessary causes that do not apply to other types of conflict. For violence to occur, there must be a polarization of the system, a change in the balance of powers and a will-to-conflict among both states. The final necessary cause is a trigger event, which communicates injustice, threat or opportunity in a way that crystallizes the conflict situation for the will-to-conflict party. Examples of a trigger event would be a terrorist attack, a sudden loss of control by the dominant power or a military defeat in which there is a loss of self-esteem for both sides.