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The workplace brings a lot of people together from many different backgrounds and with a lot of viewpoints, which increases the chances of conflict arising in the workplace. Having these different ideals and points of view is a great way to strengthen the business, making sure all avenues are thought about and covered. This is a great opportunity, but it’s not without risks, as if conflicts are allowed to escalate, then the environment can become negative – not just for those involved, but others in the team and business. 
In the intricate web of the workplace, where diverse backgrounds and myriad viewpoints converge, conflict is an inevitable companion. While this diversity enhances the fabric of a business, the unchecked escalation of conflicts can sow seeds of negativity, affecting not only those directly involved but permeating through the entire team and, consequently, the business itself. Cultivating and sustaining a conflict-free workplace is undoubtedly challenging but paramount for ensuring enduring success. Let's delve into the nuanced processes and adept approaches that can not only minimise the risks associated with conflict but also effectively resolve issues, fostering a workplace environment conducive to productivity and collaboration. 

Identifying and Understanding Workplace Conflict 

Conflict, a multifaceted phenomenon, often lurks in various forms, not all immediately discernible. Recognising the delicate balance between when to intervene and when to entrust colleagues with the autonomy to resolve their differences is a leadership art. Overzealous intervention can inadvertently communicate a lack of trust, making team members feel undervalued. Yet, leaders must remain accessible, ready to provide support when needed. Signs of conflict may manifest as a breakdown in communication, escalating discussions, increased absenteeism, diminished results, or a surge in mistakes. 

Types of Workplace Conflict 

Conflict, like a chameleon, can manifest in numerous forms, including heated arguments between team members, a refusal to consider alternative viewpoints, aggressive and insulting behaviour, neglect of the needs and well-being of other teams and workers, unwarranted assumptions of authority, and a pervasive lack of respect between colleagues. Early recognition of conflict is paramount, for what may seem like a minor dispute can quickly snowball into a pervasive issue affecting the entire business. 

The Impact of Conflict on Colleagues 

The repercussions of prolonged exposure to conflict reverberate significantly through mental health. Even individuals accustomed to a dynamic and busy atmosphere may find their well-being compromised after extended exposure to a seemingly positive yet fundamentally negative environment. The effects include diminished motivation, decreased work ethic, loss of confidence, heightened stress levels, prolonged periods of sickness, and a plummeting sense of self-worth. Each of these outcomes, when left unaddressed, has the potential to severely impact the business. 

The Five Dysfunctions Within a Team 

Understanding the root causes of conflict requires a more profound exploration. Five dysfunctions within a team—lack of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results—serve as breeding grounds for conflicts that can adversely affect productivity, results, and the overall atmosphere within the workplace. 

1. Lack Of Trust: 

- Causes: Unwillingness to appear vulnerable, reluctance to accept help, failure to look beyond personal experiences. 
- Consequences: Decreased collaboration, imbalance of power and status. 

2. Fear Of Conflict: 

- Causes: Apprehension about expressing ideas or opinions due to potential negative reactions. 
- Consequences: Missed opportunities for innovation, diminishing confidence in company policies. 

3. Lack Of Commitment: 

- Causes: Negative environment leads to decreased motivation, poor task completion, and confused priorities. 
- Consequences: Poor team results, increased stress, diminished commitment. 

4. Avoidance Of Accountability: 

- Causes: Lack of consequences for incomplete tasks, leading to complacency. 
- Consequences: Delayed or incorrect work, complacency permeating the organisation. 

5. Inattention To Results: 

- Causes: Perceived uneven distribution of effort. 
- Consequences: Reduced trust, inaccurate results, poor business decisions. 

Addressing Conflict Effectively 

Knowing the source of conflict is the first step; resolving it requires an arsenal of tailored strategies. Adaptation is key, and sometimes providing tools for colleagues to resolve conflicts themselves can be more effective than direct intervention. Cultivating a culture of open communication, trust, respect, setting realistic goals, and investing in employee growth are foundational elements. 

Creating a Platform for Communication: 

- Establish open forums or private channels for honest communication. 
- Recognise and consider diverse needs and views. 
- Encourage anonymous feedback to ensure openness. 

Showing Trust And Respect: 

- React positively to ideas and opinions. 
- Demonstrate respect in actions and conduct. 
- Acknowledge personal space and show consideration. 

Setting Realistic Goals And Expectations: 

- Clearly communicate goals and targets. 
- Be understanding of unexpected obstacles. 
- Tailor goals to individual skills and experience. 

Investing in the Future of the Team: 

- Value team members by investing in their skills. 
- Enhance competence and career prospects. 
- Foster loyalty through ongoing development. 
Conflict in the workplace is a sure-fire way to reduce productivity and create an environment that no one wants to be a part of. This could have drastic consequences over time, including losing talent to competitors that will harm your business more than expected, with a drop in your performance being met by growth elsewhere. Resolving conflict at work can be challenging and difficult, and may require changes throughout the business, but presents an opportunity to make big changes that create a much better environment for everyone. 
To find out more about conflict and ways to address it, get in touch with a member of the HR Download team, your HR consultant in Manchester. 
Tagged as: Workplace Conflict
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