Common causes of workplace conflict

Common causes of workplace conflict

By on Aug 29, 2017 in Blog, Communication, Performance Management | 0 comments

Conflicts in the workplace can be uncomfortable for everyone and lead to a negative office environment.  Fortunately, understanding a few reasons conflict arises can help prevent the problems and encourage employees and managers to overcome these difficulties.  Some of the common causes of workplace conflict may be:

  • Personality differences.  Employees come from different backgrounds and experiences, which play a role in shaping their personalities.  When employees fail to understand or accept the differences in each other’s personalities, problems arise in the workplace.  For example, an employee may possess a straightforward personality that results in him speaking whatever is on his mind, even if the timing is inappropriate.  This employee may offend a co-worker that does not possess the same type of personality.  The co-worker may feel as if the employee is rude or disrespectful, leading to conflict.
  • Clashing values.  Like personalities, the values of employees differ within the workplace.  A difference in values is sometimes seen when a generational gap is present.  For instance, young workers may possess different workplace values than older workers.  The difference in values is not necessarily the cause of employee conflict in the workplace, but the failure to accept the differences is.  When employees fail to accept the differences, co-workers may insult each other’s character and experiences.  As a result, the conflict intensifies until the right solution is offered and accepted.
  • Poor communication.  Poor communication is often one of the main causes of conflict between employees in the workplace.  This can happen because of a difference in communication styles or a failure to communicate.  For example, a manager might reassign an employee’s task to the employee’s co-worker, but fail to communicate the reassignment to the employee.  This could cause the employee to feel slighted, which can transform into animosity among the two employees and the manager.  Failing to communicate may cause employees to make incorrect assumptions and believe workplace gossip.  Poor communication not only causes conflict but decreases productivity and employee morale.
  • Competition.  Unhealthy workplace competition may be another cause of employee conflict.  Some industries foster competitive environments more than others.  For instance, if salary is linked to employee production, a workplace may experience strong competition between employees.  Competition that is not properly managed can result in employees sabotaging or insulting one another, which creates a hostile work environment.  Unhealthy workplace competition discourages teamwork and inspires individualism.

Conflict is unavoidable in the workplace, but fortunately it can be harnessed for good when it’s handled effectively.  Positively resolving conflict can promote team performance and cohesion, increase employee motivation, and improve collaborative problem solving.  Take a look at our next post for more information on constructively addressing conflict.  If you need assistance with conflict management or other human resource needs, contact us and check out our blog for more helpful resources.