January 27, 2022

8 Ways To Effectively Manage And Deal With Unnecessary Conflict At Work

A conducive and ideal work environment is optimal when it comes to enhancing staff productivity, teamwork, and job efficiency, as well as keeping employees motivated. However, creating that positive atmosphere takes more than just a comfy chair and a wide window-facing desk.

Four main factors that contribute to a conducive working environment are a committed workforce, clean and comfortable office space, availability of natural light, and clear communication on all levels.

These are the elements that make employees feel enthusiastic and always looking forward to having a good start at work each day. Although this is what everyone seeks, it can be far from reality as any workplace will have its fair share of drama. 

You're bound to run into one (or more!) person who enjoys causing conflict, and somehow trying to ruin your perfectly great day at work. So, what should you do if you come across an individual like that, and find yourself in a difficult situation? 

To provide you with a clearer perspective, let’s delve into the meaning of conflict, what it is about, what are the ways to deal with it, and how to resolve your workplace conflict. 

What Exactly Does Conflict Mean?

According to the Cambridge Dictionaryconflict is “an active disagreement between people with opposing opinions or principles”. What that basically means for a workplace is that employees don’t see eye-to-eye when working together.

That is why the minute we hear the word ‘conflict’, the first thing that probably comes to mind is a tense situation where one or more people are bickering, while the rest are trying to ignore them or frowning in dissatisfaction. 

Conflict in the workplace is indeed unavoidable, but not all are bad! Conflict comes in many forms and some can be good. You can tell the difference by looking at the outcome. 

If the conflict is constructive and brings out the best in employees, then it's good. On the other hand, bad conflict is destructive, and takes a negative emotional toll. Below are some common examples of good and bad conflict in a workplace:

Source: Rumie-Learn

What Are The 8 Causes Of Workplace Conflict?

No matter which industry you work in, conflict is inevitable in any organisation. It could be due to various reasons including individual differences in cultural background, personality, and learning styles.

The following are some of the main reasons why some people are prone to causing unnecessary conflict situations at work:

1) A lack of communication

Poor communication between team members, or between employees and the management, is a common source of workplace conflict. Misinformation can cause tension and misunderstanding among the employees.

2) Clash of values and work styles

Individuals with different perspectives coexist in any organisation. When people cannot accept and recognise each other's differences, that is how conflict arises.

3) Resistance to change

Employee resistance to change is one of the most prominent reasons for workplace conflict. This frequently occurs when they refuse to follow their management's directions to implement new procedures or make unexpected changes to their job routine.

4) Unclear and conflicting job roles

When employees are unsure of what is expected of them, they can feel demotivated and undervalued. Some employees may also take this for granted and leave a task uncompleted, because they believe they're not responsible for it.

5) Personality differences

Different personalities exist in every work environment as people come from different backgrounds, cultures, experiences, and demographics. Conflict will arise unless employees learn to work together and embrace each other's differences.

6) Poor job performance

When management fails to notice that one or more employees in a department are underperforming and not working to their full capacity, conflict is bound to happen.

7) Dysfunctional workplace

Organisations with a toxic work culture not only lead to conflict but also hurt productivity. Other hostile situations are bullying and abusive behaviour between team members. 

8) Supervision issues

Some managers could be biased and only listen to one side of the story. This lack of competent supervision can cause workplace disagreements because there is negative interaction from the management when dealing with issues.

8 Ways Of Dealing With Conflict At Work And Difficult Individual(s)

When faced with conflicts, so many scenarios emerge as to how you should handle the situation and, of course, the person who caused it. First off, you should accept that conflict is a natural part of life and that it can occur frequently. 

Always maintain a cool demeanour so that you may remain in control of the situation and your actions. You don't want to make a mistake or say something hurtful that you'll come to regret, or worse, that'll cost you your job.

Here are some other ways of dealing with workplace conflict and difficult people:

  • Take a step back and think about how best to alleviate the situation.
  • Look for a different solution to the problem.
  • React politely and diplomatically.
  • Find a safe and private place where you can discuss your concerns with a trusted confidante.
  • Built a good rapport and treat them with respect.
  • Focus on what you can control, instead of trying to control the entire situation.
  • Make an effort to understand and compromise with other people's viewpoints.
  • You can always choose to ignore it, because let's face it, sometimes ignorance is bliss!

How To Avoid Or Resolve The Conflict Situation?

While we have the right to express our opinions and dissatisfaction, confronting and opposing every matter that we disagree on, may not be the best approach. It could backfire, putting you in a bad light with your superiors and co-workers.

One good way is to keep a safe distance from people who are toxic and always spreading rumours, be it in the office or on your social media. If you ever feel that tensions are still lurking despite your best efforts, get a third person, someone who is familiar with the issue, to assist you.

Nonetheless, the end goal is always to reach a positive conflict resolution. These are some approaches for resolving workplace conflict:

  • Identify the source of conflict so you can comprehend how the problem started in the first place.
  • Make it clear why you want the conflict to be resolved, and how you’d like to handle the situation.
  • Have an assertive but polite face-to-face discussion, and allow each party equal opportunity to share their opinions.
  • Stay focused on the issues; remember to address only the behaviours and situations that need to be improved.
  • Take a break if you ever feel like your emotions are interfering with the conflict resolution. 
  • Listen, discuss, and brainstorm solutions to achieve a common goal.
  • If nothing is working and your employment is in jeopardy, speak with your HR representative about how to handle the matter.

7 Key Tips To Protecting Yourself At Work

Conflict can lead to stress, exhaustion, and depression if it isn't resolved quickly. If you ever find yourself in an unpleasant working situation, learn to protect yourself using the measures listed below:

  • Do not participate in anonymous verbal assaults or backchannel gossip.
  • Give yourself some space and emotionally detach from the toxic working environment.
  • Engage with people from other departments and be courteous to everyone.
  • At work, never disclose personal or confidential information to anyone, unless you're very confident he/she is trustworthy. Even then, it's still best to err on the side of caution!
  • Build a network of people you can trust.
  • Set healthy boundaries with difficult people at work.
  • Be courageous to speak up when you know you're in the right.

It's clear by now that conflict is completely normal at any workplace. However, depending on how we interpret conflict and the outcomes that arise, it can be either constructive or destructive.

Some individuals believe that avoiding conflict is the simplest way to cope with it, yet this isn't always the best approach. Instead, effective communication and listening are essential for resolving conflicts and improving staff morale.

Remember that you spend eight hours or more a day at work every week, so take advantage of your 'me' time at work, surround yourself with the right crowd of colleagues, and attempt to resolve problems whenever time permits.

By actively addressing conflict when it arises, both employees and management can progress toward a more positive work atmosphere.

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