Understanding Conflict and Workplace Relationships

Conflict ResolutionWorkplace Conflict 

All workplaces experience some form of conflict on a daily basis.  Indeed, there are many situations in which conflict is beneficial, so long as it is resolved properly.  Conflict resolution is about increasing and improving communication, so that conflicting ideas can co-exist.  In order to make this possible, it is important to first understand how conflict is caused.

This will help those charged with conflict resolution to identify what the real issue is, and help move on from there, before workplace relationships are irreparably destroyed.  If conflicts are not resolved, they have a tendency to escalate which could lead to a decrease in productivity and morale.

Causes of Conflict

Art Bell and Brett Hart, psychologists, have identified eight reasons why conflict occurs.  They worked separately on identifying these causes and wrote individual articles.  The two articles, released in 2000 and 2002, named the exact same conflict causes, which indicate that they are correct.

“You can use this classification to identify possible causes of conflict.  Once you’ve identified these, you can take steps to prevent conflict happening in the first place, or you can tailor your conflict resolution strategy to fit the situation.”
Bell and Hart’s Eight Causes of Conflict – Understanding the Causes of Workplace Tension

The eight causes are related to resources, styles, perceptions, goals, pressures and roles, as well as unpredictable policies and different personal values.  Some of these conflicts, as such, are a direct result of poor management, such as unpredictable policies.  Others are more difficult to resolve, particularly if they relate to differing personal values.

The Cost of Workplace Conflict 

Some managers make the mistake of not attaching sufficient importance to conflict.  They believe it is something normal (it is) that will go away by itself (it won’t).  In doing so, they are not actually identifying the true cost of workplace conflict.

“25 percent of employees said that avoiding conflict led to sickness or absence from work.  Equally alarming, nearly 10 percent reported that workplace conflict led to project failure and more than one-third said that conflict resulted in someone leaving the company.”  The Real Cost of Workplace Conflict

Employee sickness and employee turnover are two very important issues within any organization.  It is very important, therefore, to recognize conflict for what it is, and address it in the appropriate manner, thereby restoring positive workplace relationships.  Overlooking problems and thinking they will simply go away could be a costly mistake, not in the least because unaddressed conflict generally escalates into greater problems.

Of course, it must also be noted that the cost of conflict goes beyond the organization itself.  It also affects staff greatly, which is why sickness levels will be up, and why turnover might be so high.  Employees are humans and conflict places them under a great deal of undue stress, which must be avoided as much as possible.

“Employees in high pressure/low control situations or high effort/low reward situations have much greater risks to their physical and mental well being.”  About Workplace Conflict – The Cost of Conflict

Conflict Resolution

There are numerous tools and techniques available to help resolve conflict.  Leaders and managers in particular should be trained in dealing with this, but it is equally important to have policies and procedures in place that all employees can fall back on if they feel they need it.  Consider such things as an Employee Assistance Program, a proper Grievance Procedure and Alternative Dispute Resolution packages.

Everything DiSC Workplace ProfileUsing The DiSC Workplace Profile To Address Conflict 

The Everything DiSC Workplace Profile has been a very effective tool when used to address conflict and improve workplace relationships.

There are specific sections in the report that discuss:

  • What priorities shape your workplace experience
  • What motivates you
  • How you react to DiSC Styles that differ from yours
  • Strategies to increase your effectiveness when working with DiSC Styles that differ from yours
  • A summary on how to increase your workplace effectiveness
  • Personalized style index

See a Sample Everything DiSC Workplace Profile 

This simple tool, DiSC, has been helping people to connect better in the workplace for over forty years.  It uses individual assessment data to provide a wealth of personalized information about how you view your workplace.

See more information about the Everything DiSC Workplace Profile.

In Closing 

As the manager or leader, there are numerous things you can do as well.  Always start by making sure the issue is addressed as soon as possible, which is when both parties have calmed down.  Your outlook should, at all times, remain positive.  The key is communication, with you being the empathetic and neutral listener.  You must also make sure that the parties involved in the conflict become part of the solution, listening to their suggestions for improvement above all else.


Co-owner/Co-founder of Intesi! Resources. Educated as an architect I transitioned to technology during my career in architecture. Intesi! Resources was founded in 2004 and my focus is everything Web/eCommerce related from the design and development of our site to all the marketing activities involved. I also provide significant support for our clients on all our products and how they are used to deliver assessment-driven learning solutions that develop self-awareness and interpersonal skills.

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