Things That Can Lead to Potential Conflict in the Workplace

The best work environments are harmonious and peaceful but, in any workplace, conflict can erupt when you least expect it. While sometimes workplace conflict may be blatant and disruptive, other times conflict is brewing beneath the surface but isn’t recognized until it intensifies. To try to prevent conflict from creating a tense work environment, it’s important to consider what might lead to potential conflict in the workplace.

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Different Backgrounds and Personalities

Diversity helps companies bring together people with different life experiences and perspectives and this can lead to creativity and innovation. Staff members may come from very widely different socioeconomic backgrounds and may have varying levels of education. Potential conflict in the workplace can happen because of coming from different backgrounds. Examples include cultural misunderstandings, generational differences and religious differences.

Different backgrounds go hand in hand with different personalities. People with different personalities may have different approaches to work. Some prefer to work at a fast pace while others want to take their time. Some are most productive in the morning while others come to life late in the day. It’s unrealistic to think that each staff member will like every other staff member, but all should clearly understand that they don’t have to like each other but they do have to treat each other with respect and they do have to work through any differences that arise.

Lack of Clarity Regarding Responsibilities

Ineffective management can mean that staff members don’t clearly understand their roles and aren’t clear who is responsible for what. People may assume others are responsible for certain aspects of the job and the end result is certain things aren’t being taken care of at all.

Managers are responsible for delegating tasks, setting expectations and making sure everyone clearly understands their roles. Without clarity on roles and responsibilities, it’s only a matter of time before staff members are angry or impatient with each other. When team members know exactly what’s expected of them, it can prevent conflicts triggered by misunderstandings about who is handling a particular task.

Poor Work Habits

If one staff member has poor work habits that aren’t being addressed by management, it can bring down the morale of everyone on the team. Examples include being habitually late, missing deadlines because of being disorganized or spending an unreasonable amount of time on personal phone calls. Gossip, negativity and not doing their fair share of the work are all poor work habits that can lead to potential conflict in the workplace.

Insufficient Resources

Employees may face lack of sufficient resources such as supplies and equipment. When there aren’t enough resources to go around, conflict may develop over who should be able to use what’s available. Those that end up not getting what they feel they need become resentful.

Insufficient resources can also take the form of not having enough staff to handle the workload, especially if the company has recently experienced dramatic growth or a major change such as a merger or acquisition. When staff are faced with an overwhelming workload, anxiety increases and they may turn on each other.

Preventing Conflict from Worsening

It’s impossible to prevent all conflict, but whenever possible, those in leadership roles need to be aware of subtle signs of potential conflict in the workplace. When tension is brewing, morale may be low and productivity may suffer. Absenteeism and staff turnover may increase. It’s always best to confront growing conflict as early as possible and try to prevent things from getting worse.

Managers may need training and experience to know when it’s time to intervene. Conflict coaching is a great way to improve conflict management skills.

Reach out to Pollack Peacebuilding Systems for information about conflict coaching or conflict management training.








Valerie Dansereau

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