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Workplace Conflict: How to Handle It

Workplace Conflict & How to Handle It
Workplace Conflict & How to Handle It

Even in the healthiest workplaces, conflict can sometimes arise. It’s simply the nature of humans working closely together! In fact, 85% of employees experience conflict at work.

However, resolving workplace conflicts quickly and smoothly is essential because a tense working environment can lead to decreased productivity.

If you can learn to resolve conflicts well, your workplace will benefit. Your employees will feel safe and valued, and creativity can flourish. That said, addressing conflict is a learning curve.

Let’s talk about how you can handle six types of workplace conflict.

6 Types of Workplace Conflict

1. Working Styles 😡

Everybody has a different manner of working. When two colleagues work closely together, they might clash based on these different styles. Conflict occurs when they become irritated with one another.

Example: Employee A has been assigned to a task working with Employee B. A prefers to work alone, but B doesn’t mind group work and is enthusiastic about the task. A likes working close to the deadline, but B prefers getting things done ahead of time. As a result, they spend more time arguing about how to complete the task than doing the task itself.

💡Resolving a Working Style Conflict

Encourage employees to see things from another point of view before acting. As a manager, you can sit both employees down and encourage them to come to a compromise.

2. Expectation-Based Conflict 📅

Sometimes, an employee does not meet expectations. It can be disappointing when a worker misses deadlines frequently, doesn’t turn up to work, or stops completing their tasks to a high quality.

Example: An employee has started handing in their timesheets late. This affects departmental performance and also means that other employees are receiving their paychecks late. It causes tension among the team and also between the manager and the employee.

💡Resolving an Expectation-Based Conflict

As a manager, active listening is essential when managing conflict. The employee could be failing to meet expectations due to a number of factors, so it’s important to approach the conflict from a place of understanding.

Gently remind the employee of their duties while acknowledging their perspective.

Workplace Conflict: How to Handle It

3. Interpersonal Conflict 🫂

Sometimes, people just don’t get along. Colleagues sometimes dislike each other for a variety of reasons. As a manager, this is a challenging conflict to tackle–you can’t force people to be friends. However, you can foster a healthy workplace where people are professional and civil.

Example: You might enjoy your job and get along well with most people, but one person on your team rubs you the wrong way. It could be opposing views outside work or the fact that they leave their food in the office fridge until it goes off. Either way, you often experience conflict, affecting your joy for work.

💡Resolving Interpersonal Conflict

With interpersonal conflict, there may be emotions involved. Managers may have to bring in professional mediators that can prevent these situations from escalating. Furthermore, if you know that two employees don’t get along, try to avoid making them work together.

4. Task-Based Conflict 📝

Sometimes, disagreement over a task can be positive. Some back-and-forth over the best course of action can help you reach a good outcome. However, with disputes that escalate, they can also cause a problem.

Example: In the weekly team meeting, a colleague suggests a solution to the latest problem. You don’t think it’s the best idea to benefit your client, so you raise this concern. However, they double down, and the discussion quickly becomes heated.

💡Resolving Task-Based Conflict

If you are part of the conflict, step back from the issue to stay calm–don’t get dragged into the argument. Managers can put a pin in the discussion, encouraging a break or returning to the discussion at a later point. Encourage collaboration between the team to find a solution that suits all parties.

5. Discrimination 🏳️‍🌈

Discrimination is one of the most serious workplace conflicts. It might be a sign of a toxic workplace culture, so it’s something that your company should have zero tolerance for. Remember that discrimination can come in numerous forms, from overt insults to indirect comments.

Example: Employee A has been working at the company for 10 years but has missed out on promotion several times. This time, they know that the other candidate was less qualified and experienced. Feedback from management was vague and unhelpful. As a result, they are worried that the decision was based on prejudice.

💡Resolving Discrimination Conflict

Discrimination is a job for Human Resources (HR). If you are a small business without a HR division, consider bringing in external support to address the issue.

If you were a victim of discrimination, ask a manager you trust for support in this process.

6. Creative Ideas Conflict 🎨

If your job involves some creativity, there will likely be the occasional clash between employees. Strong creative opinions can lead to arguments. Similar to task-based conflicts, it’s important to recognize that every contribution has value.

Example: You work at a content agency creating social media campaigns for clients. You are working on a TikTok campaign for a client and are concerned about reaching the right target audience. However, the colleague you’re working with is much more focused on the aesthetics of the video, and you don’t feel they’re striking the right tone. You feel that they’re dismissing your ideas too quickly, causing tension.

💡Resolving Creative Conflict

You can resolve a creative conflict by acknowledging the other person’s point of view. As creatives, you can both work together to find an innovative solution.

If you feel that your colleague is being difficult, involve a third-party observer or manager to help you come to a resolution.

More Ways to Handle Conflict Like a Pro

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when attempting to resolve conflict. Even after identifying the sources of conflict, you might need to develop a novel approach. Here are some extra tips and tricks to help you.

  • Devise an employee manual: If everybody knows the ground rules for a healthy and positive workplace, you can all work together well toward your organizational goals. It also helps to refer to a manual in case someone feels they are being unfairly discriminated against.
  • Be open-minded: Whenever conflict emerges between team members, you must be open-minded about other people’s perspectives. You can resolve the conflict by being respectful and not being stubborn.
  • Detect it early: Conflicts can escalate quickly. Avoid this by picking up on conflicts early and addressing them immediately. Managers should create an environment where employees feel comfortable raising their concerns.
  • Follow-up on conflicts: Following a conflict, it’s important to check in on all involved parties a few days or weeks later to see how things are going. This is part of early detection and can help in case anything happens again.

Adopt zero-tolerance: When it comes to discriminatory behavior or issues such as harassment, theft, and violence, adopt a zero-tolerance policy with strong punishments.

How to Handle Workplace Conflict

Look Forward to a Conflict-Free Workplace

Workplace conflict can occur for all sorts of reasons, from poor communication to creative differences. However, with the right tools, resolving conflicts at work can become a breeze.

Alongside the tips in this guide, consider implementing work-friendly tools like MyTommy 🐶to help your workplace run more smoothly. From easy team messaging to analytics that manage expectations, Tommy can help you do it all.

Find out more here.