When conflict happens in the workplace, it can affect productivity and morale. If a conflict between coworkers intensifies and isn’t dealt with, the work environment can become toxic and unpleasant, which can lead to increased absenteeism and turnover. There are several common conflict situations in the workplace.

Free Consultation for Workplace Conflict

Workstyle Conflicts

When staff members are expected to collaborate, there may be conflicts in workstyle that make it difficult or impossible to move forward with a project or task. Some people prefer to work alone while others want to work through every step of a project as a team. Some want to get started early in the day while others come to life late in the afternoon. Some try to get a project done as quickly as possible while others habitually complete a task minutes before it’s due and may hold up work that needs to be done by a teammate.

When people with a completely different approach to work attempt to collaborate, conflict may happen gradually or all of a sudden. It can intensify if roles aren’t clearly defined or if resources are strained. Leaders may need to intervene to help resolve conflict.  This may mean working to find a common ground or it may mean reassigning those in conflict to different projects with different people.

Personality Conflicts

When people come from very different backgrounds, they may find it difficult to understand each other or to get along. Differences may be based on age, gender, socioeconomic status, cultural background or many other factors. When people who have had vastly different life experiences try to work together, miscommunication may happen frequently. Personality conflicts are sometimes rooted in unconscious bias.

Personality-based conflicts may be challenging to deal with, but they shouldn’t be ignored. Staff members that are consistently hostile to each other need to work through their differences, and management may need to get involved to make this happen, particularly if there are complaints of discrimination or harassment.  It’s not necessary for all coworkers to be friends, but it is necessary for them to treat each other with respect, and if that’s not happening, managers need to intervene.

Leadership Conflict

Many conflict situations in the workplace either directly involve leaders or are triggered by leadership style. Some people like a manager to have a hands-off approach while others prefer to interact with their manager as often as possible. A manager who envisions ambitious goals and constantly assigns new tasks may overwhelm a staff member. When workers aren’t comfortable with a manager’s leadership style, conflict may result.  Staff members who feel their manager isn’t open to listening to their perspectives may need to involve HR.

In some companies, conflict between leaders can lead to power struggles and may lead to role confusion. Conflict or tension may also happen if someone is promoted to a leadership position that others were interested in or hoping to get. Staff members sometimes have a hard time accepting a peer in a leadership role.

Restoring a Peaceful Workplace

Working through conflict situations in the workplace starts with recognizing that there’s a problem and determining what’s causing it.  Leaders may need to intervene when conflict disrupts productivity or affects other staff members. Managers may have to act as mediators, allowing those in conflict to express their differences while brainstorming possible solutions.

Restoring a peaceful workplace is imperative for the good of the company. When conflicts continue to recur or worsen, it may be a good idea to work with an outside company to help resolve differences and to work toward preventing future conflicts.

For conflict resolution services or training, reach out to Pollack Peacebuilding Systems.


Valerie Dansereau

Copyright © 2024 Pollack Peacebuilding Systems