Workplace Stress

What Causes Workplace Conflict?

Work Is a Stressful Place.

We have to deal with workloads and deadlines, as well as with a whole lot of other people who are stressed. Just as in a social situation, if you step into a room with 30 other people, there are bound to be some that you don’t like. But is all workplace conflict caused by clashing personalities? It seems that to some degree it is, but it is more because people with clashing personalities have clashing communication styles. As a result, they take things in ways that they were perhaps not meant.

Let’s take a look at the most common catalysts for workplace conflict and how The Everything DiSC Workplace Profile will help.

Power Differentials

They say power corrupts, and it certainly seems that people with a certain degree of power see themselves as above others, not just in terms of hierarchy but also personally. Very often, due to lack of understanding, a certain degree of resentment starts to occur, and this is a major source of workplace conflict.

“We have all known people who seem to wield their power in inappropriate ways. However, individuals sometimes “step on other’s toes” inadvertently as they try to complete their own tasks. In addition, some individuals or even entire departments may be viewed as providing a more valuable service to the organization than do others. In such a case, resentment can often arise, laying the foundation for conflict.” Conflict In The Workplace By Brett Hart, Ph.D.

Communicating clearly about the role and value of each individual and team is a way to avoid this type of conflict.

Conflicting Styles

Different people have different ways of working, filing and handling issues. For instance, one person may do all their filing at the end of the week, whereas others may do it when something needs filing. There are times that different styles can clash tremendously, for instance when someone finds a “disorganized” desk distracting.

“Everyone works differently, according to his or her individual needs and personality. For instance, some people love the thrill of getting things done at the last minute, while others need the structure of strict deadlines to perform. However, when working styles clash, conflict can often occur.” Bell and Hart’s Eight Causes of Conflict – Understanding the Causes of Workplace Tension

It is very important for line managers to be aware of what styles their different team members have in order to avoid style conflicts.

Poor Communication

At the root of all conflict lies poor communication. People don’t talk to each other, bottling things up and eventually exploding. Or perhaps they do talk to each other, but due to different communication styles, the message is not received in the way it was intended. When people say communication is one of the most important things to get right, they are correct.

“Poor communication is one of the main causes of conflict between employees in the workplace. Failing to communicate in the workplace may cause employees to make incorrect assumptions and believe workplace gossip. Poor communication in the workplace not only causes conflict but decreases productivity and employee morale.” What Causes Employee Conflict in the Workplace? by Rose Johnson – Demand Media

In order to avoid this, communication lines should be open and clear within a company. They should also use various forms of communication, such as the intranet, bulletin boards, newsletters and direct communication. This way, you have a bigger chance of reaching everybody, regardless of their communication style. Furthermore, it will avoid situations arising where confrontational or critical communication has to take place, which can easily get out of hand.

As a company, you must always remember that employees are people. People have styles, personalities, likes and dislikes and more. This means that there is always going to be an element of conflict. What matters most is that these differences are accepted in a professional, respectful manner.


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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