fighting in the office

Understanding Where Workplace Conflict Comes From

A business can have the most successful strategies cooked up, but it will all be for nothing if the workplace is strife with conflict. Innovative and significant projects will go down the drain as employee efficiency and productivity becomes affected by arguments, misunderstandings, and politics. While it’s impossible to have only peaceful days, corporations with deep disputes — due to power struggles and chaotic culture and processes — make it difficult to concentrate on the work. Employees not only have to deal with project-related challenges but must also contend with navigating passive-aggressive scenarios.

Managers can usually mitigate the risk of conflicts by having a comprehensive interview vetting process and pre-employment skills tests. But what happens when the conflict is already within the organization? To implement effective solutions, the management must be able to identify the root causes and triggers of the conflict. Without this understanding, measures might only solve surface-level symptoms and ignore what’s bubbling in the heart.

Here are some major causes of workplace conflict:

Employees fight for limited resources

Resources will always be finite, even in large multinational corporations like Apple and Google. What more in small businesses and start-ups that are in their growth stages? The competition for the same resources, whether its additional budget or manpower, can cause animosity and jealousy among employees. Each department will think of ways they can get the most slices to the company’s pie, even if it will result in tension and infighting. That is why the corporate world has been dubbed a rat race or a dog-eat-dog environment.

What to do: Management can lessen this risk through clear policies on company prioritization and growth. If employees can see they can attain their goals without resorting to underhanded means, they will find ways to achieve the company’s targets rather than concoct ways to sabotage others.

Clashes in core beliefs and personalities

employees in the office

The fact that people are wired differently is one of the reasons why conflict is inevitable in the workplace. Every employee brings with them a variety of backgrounds, biases, and preferences when they join an organization. That is why some companies invest heavily in onboarding measures and culture orientation. If there will be disagreements, then employees can be guided by the company values and policies. However, things can escalate if people target personal attributes and identities instead of focusing on challenging ideas and behavior.

What to do: Managers must set a healthy tone for their team, which includes being unbiased when disagreements happen. They should hear both sides of the story while remaining stoic and objective in their decisions.

Poor communication and assumptions reign supreme

Communication is vital in any project and partnership. If someone doesn’t set expectations and deliver information correctly, the receiver of the message might misinterpret what they are supposed to do and act upon. That can result in mistakes and wasted resources that could have spent elsewhere. Being quick to jump to assumptions, instead of asking for clarifications can also derail efforts.

What to do: Miscommunication will always happen. The trick is to always double-check if a message is understood clearly or have a written summary that anyone can use as a reference. Regular alignment and feedback meetings are also great ways to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Conflict management is one of the foundations of a good business strategy. Without proper mechanisms to mitigate the risks, well-meaning initiatives won’t reach their full potential as they get pummeled into the dark by infighting.

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