Types of Conflict in a Workplace | Pollack Peacebuilding

April 17, 2020by Vanessa Rose

Conflict at work can be overwhelming, but if you’re in charge of keeping the peace at the office, there are different tools and contexts to use that can increase your efficacy and keep coworkers working rather than fighting. Understanding these two different types of conflict in a workplace can help you navigate them when they arise.

Types of Conflict in a Workplace

All conflict is not created equal. There are different types of conflict in a workplace and many of them require some slight amendments to your normal resolution approach. If you’re leading a team where the stakes are high and stress seems to spur on conflict, recognizing these two different types can help reduce the number of times you have to have the same conversation and can actually lead to team growth.

Value Conflict

Values are what tell us what’s good, bad, right, wrong, just, and unjust. Values can create conflict and confrontation at work in two ways. The first is when an employee’s values don’t align with the job itself or the values of the company. A person whose values don’t align with the work they’re responsible for will experience stress, resentment, and overall suffering that can create conflict vulnerabilities. The second way values can create conflict at work is when two team members with contrasting belief systems are paired up on a project.

Examples of value conflict in the workplace can include employees who want to spend more time at home with family than in the office or employees who disagree on appropriate methods through which to complete a shared task.

A value conflict means two opposing belief systems are at play and one or more people involved feel pressure to conform. The good news is different values don’t have to create conflict. In fact, having a variety of perspectives and beliefs while collaborating is typically fuel for innovation and growth within work teams. This is what makes it so important to understand the different types of conflict in a workplace. By recognizing a value conflict and allowing each team member to stay true to their values rather than sacrifice them for the sake of the work, employees can start to work more collaboratively and authentically without the pressure of doing what makes them uncomfortable.

Relationship Conflict

Relationship conflict tends to arise when two personalities, work styles, or communication styles clash on the job. This type of conflict can escalate quickly due to its personal nature. When a third party can intervene, however, this style of conflict can often be turned into a bonding experience. When coworkers can get to know each other more deeply without being asked to sacrifice what makes them unique, team-building can take the wheel.

Used in a positive manner, relationship conflict can result in team members gaining an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the team and how to use them effectively, rather than tearing each other down or feeling threatened by them. Relationship conflict can become constructive conflict in the workplace when each party is validated for their way of being rather than blamed for it.

Managers who create a company culture that welcomes and celebrates differences can do a great service to this style of conflict and decrease the chances of it even beginning. Managing employee conflict can be made easier when types of conflict in the workplace are recognizable so that a tailored approach can be taken, and destructive conflict can become constructive.

To learn more about how different types of conflict in a workplace are impacting your team, reach out to the neutral and experienced professionals who know how to diffuse tension at work. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today to get the right solutions for your team.

Types of Conflict in a Workplace

Vanessa Rose


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