How to Prevent and Manage Conflict at Work


Conflict is a natural part of life, but when it occurs at work, it can be incredibly distracting and damaging to morale and productivity. Preventing workplace conflict takes proactive leadership that is observant and alert to warning signs. It also requires knowledge of the types of conflicts that can arise and strategies for managing them when they do occur.

Individual differences are one of the main causes of conflict. What upsets you may not bother your partner or colleague at all and what is important to you may not be valuable to someone else. Individual differences make it inevitable that there will be disagreements. Disagreements can become conflicts when they are allowed to escalate from small differences in perspective to blaming, shaming and a complete breakdown of communication.

In order to have a conflict, there needs to be an adversary or force of antagonism that works against the protagonist’s main goal or desire. In genre writing this is often referred to as the antagonist, but it can be any oppositional force that thwarts the character’s goal.

Another common cause of conflict is a clash of values and interests. This is most often seen in personal relationships but can also be at work. In the workplace, this can include a lack of clear job descriptions, competing priorities, and a clash between team members’ work ethic, goals and values.

Scare resources are also an area of potential conflict. It is very easy to step on others’ toes if roles and responsibilities aren’t clearly defined or if people are competing for the same tasks or time. This type of conflict can be especially challenging in a team setting where people rely on each other for support and help with their work.

Conflict can also be caused by a person’s inability to adapt to or accept change. The classic example of this is a worker who refuses to accept the introduction of new technology such as an improved computer system or a coworker with different work habits. This type of conflict is usually a result of fear and can lead to feelings of powerlessness and frustration for all parties involved.

A final type of conflict is person vs. nature or environment. This is a popular theme in survival stories such as Daniel Defoe’s castaway novel Robinson Crusoe and Zora Neale Hurston’s book Their Eyes Were Watching God. This type of conflict can also be seen in stories where characters are squaring off against natural disasters or environmental conditions such as droughts or floods.