Everyone experiences conflict in the workplace at some point. By understanding what causes conflicts to happen will help you find ways to resolve the conflict amicably.
According to psychologists Art Bell and Brett Hart, there are eight common causes of conflict in the workplace.
The effective management of conflict in the workplace requires managers and leaders to understand the nature and causes of conflict.
1. Conflicting Styles
Everyone is an individual with a different personality and a different style of working. For instance, some people may be more introverted, love to organize, and pay attention to detail. Still others may be an extrovert, disorganized, leave things to the last minute, and have no attention to detail. When this occurs, often conflict will occur.
When putting together your team, personality profiling will help identify the right person for the job depending on what skills you need. For instance, you may need a person with an outgoing personality to be in sales, whereas an accounts person must have a high attention to detail.
Personality profiling also helps your team become more accepting of other employees’ personalities and working style when they become aware of others personality traits and how this fits with their role.
2. Conflicting Goals
In addition to knowing what the strategic plan is, employees must also understand the key goals and objectives for the business. If these are not clearly communicated, employees may have difficulty understanding what’s important and what’s not.
For instance, speed may be important in some circumstances, whereas accuracy may be important in others. It is sometimes difficult to reconcile the two; therefore, having clearly communicated standards across various aspects of the business may resolve potential conflicting goals.
3. Conflicting Values
Communicating agreed values to all employees is equally as important as communicating the strategic plan, business goals and objectives. Consider company values as a guiding light or moral compass for all decision making. Behavior should not be in conflict with communicated values. For example, if teamwork is a value, then this should be the basis of working together to achieve business goals and objectives.
Sometimes personal values and business values are not aligned. A conflict can arise in the workplace, where an employee is asked to do something that conflicts with their personal values, for example, being asked to lie to a customer that a product is on order when it’s not. Personal differences in values, goals, or styles involving parochial and regional attitudes can also cause conflict.
4. Conflicting Policies
Most businesses have a set of rules or policies to guide people in the business. As with all policies and procedures, they need to be constantly reviewed and updated, depending on external forces such as changes in technology, changes in leadership, business growth, or downsizing.
Roles change as well. To keep pace of change, it is very important not only to induct employees properly and help them understand the policies and procedures, but any changes need to be communicated accordingly.
Where there is a lack of information, misunderstanding, or even a different interpretation of the same information, conflict can occur. When changes are not communicated clearly, confusion and conflict will follow.
5. Conflicting Pressures
Employees often must depend on each other to get work done and work together as a team. Conflicting pressures is often a result of poor planning or poor time management.
Conflict can arise when an employee is asked to complete something by a certain deadline that interferes with another deadline.
6. Conflicting Resources
For all employees to do their job well, they all need access to resources. This might be help from colleagues, money for equipment, access to workrooms or meeting rooms. Conflict can occur when more than one person needs access to a particular resource.
Proper planning and communication can help avoid this type of conflict.
7. Conflicting Perceptions
We all have a different view of the world, depending on how you were brought up, the people you meet, and what you read and believe. Perceptions are reality, and differences in perception can cause conflict in the workplace. Differing perceptions, values, and cultural norms regarding an issue causes conflict, particularly in a multi-cultural society.
Different perceptions are often a cause of office politics.
8. Conflicting Roles
Sometimes, your employees may have to perform a task that’s outside their normal role or responsibilities. Some employees take “ownership” of a role and don’t like it if someone else steps into their shoes. If this happens, then a power struggle can occur causing conflict.
Power struggles pertaining to status, ego, recognition, and self-worth can also cause conflict. Misuse of power, bullying behavior, and feelings of injustice over real or perceived unfair treatment also is a source of conflict.
On a final note
When you learn why conflict occurs in the workplace, you can be prepared to compromise in advance resulting in a win-win outcome.
In a Nutshell
The 8 key causes of conflict in the workplace are:
- Conflicting styles and personalities such as an introvert verses and extrovert.
- Conflicting goals and objectives such as speed verses accuracy.
- Conflicting values such as being asking to lie to a customer about an order.
- Conflicting policies and procedures such as outdated policies or new policies and procedures that weren’t communicated.
- Conflicting pressures as a result of poor planning or poor time management.
- Conflicting resources such as funding, workrooms or even help from colleagues.
- Conflicting perceptions dues to upbringing, values or even cultural norms.
- Conflicting roles where one employee takes on a task designated to another employee.