Workplace Conflict

  • Employee Conduct
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

In the workplace, having unique perspectives and talents can increase business prosperity.

But when personalities clash and discussions become hostile, workplace conflict can affect more than work relationships. The consequences can range from frustration to offence–meaning employees could suffer from unlawful treatment during work.

As an employer, you could face discrimination claims through tribunals–followed by business penalties, disruptions, and possible closure.

Read all about workplace conflicts, the causes for disputes at work, and how to resolve them without discriminating against both parties.

What is a workplace conflict?

Conflict in the workplace happens when there are disagreements between colleagues. These occur because the individuals have opposing ideas, interests, or beliefs.

Having conflicting ideas is part and parcel of business life. However, sometimes arguments can become unpleasant or go too far. Then, employee conflicts in the workplace become unprofessional, and even unlawful.

What is conflict in the workplace?

There are several conflicts that could occur at work–this is because work disputes won’t be identical.

Workplace conflict can include:

  • Lack of communication.
  • Differing of opinions.
  • Lack of cooperation.
  • Poor quality of work.
  • Verbal abuse. 
  • Physical violence.

When disagreements become hostile, a conflict resolution in the workplace will need to be in place for such an occurrence.

What are different examples of workplace conflict?

As long as viewpoints will differ, there will always be different types of conflict in the workplace–some, more manageable than others.

Here are some common examples of workplace conflict:

Personality conflicts

This is when individuals cannot reach an agreement due to a clash in personality. It’s the most common form of workplace conflict.

As humans are unique individuals, it’s almost impossible to be cohesive with everyone. However, it’s important to listen and recognise different personalities and viewpoints.

Interdependency conflicts

Within a company, interdependent areas work together to produce revenue and output. But, through these channels, sometimes communication can become lost or distorted.

For example, you work as a payroll coordinator, and are aware that two new graphic designers have been hired. You need their personal information to pay wages, but their manager hasn’t replied to your emails.

Here, a lack of correspondence can create backlogs and conflicts between the two departments. Having open understanding for work needs can help smooth the transition between different work division.

Preferential conflicts

This commonly occurs because people have individual preferences for working. No two people will work in the same manner or pattern as another.

But frustrations can grow, especially during collaborative tasks and projects. Here, you need to ensure that both employees recognised the differences in working methods.

Management conflicts

When it comes to management styles, everyone will have different methods and directions. Some leaders are empathetic and considerate; some are more strict or direct.

Your management style must balance employee and customer satisfaction. A happier workforce leads to healthier work production–which benefits everyone relevant to the business.

What are the consequences of unresolved conflict in the workplace?

If you don’t deal with workplace conflicts, it can have negative impacts on employee relations. The consequences of unresolved conflict can cause:

How to resolve conflict in the workplace

You must learn to spot the signs early when managing conflict in the workplace. Sometimes, nipping a problem in the bud is the best form for resolution.

Keep open forms of communication to resolve misunderstandings that might affect employee performance and engagement.

Here are strategies for resolving conflict in the workplace:

  • Keep in mind all employees will have individual working methods.
  • Identify any tensions which can affect productivity. 
  • Outline the rules on workplace conduct, behaviour, and performance.
  • Manage wrongful behaviour though disciplinary policies. 
  • Remain objective when mediating disputes. 
  • Tackle early signs of conflicts and disputes accordingly.

Using mediation for workplace conflicts

Mediation is when a third party is used to resolve disputes. It’s used for issues like, workplace discrimination, harassment, and contractual disputes.

Mediation is suitable for solving workplace conflict when:

  • Both parties in dispute need to continue professional communication.
  • One party feels uncomfortable with facing the other party alone.
  • Parties are unable to solve disputes alone or fairly. 
  • Parties want to avoid using formal grievance procedures.

If an employee raises an issue relating to work conflict, handle it through your grievance procedures.

This is especially important for cases that involve unlawful activity, like discrimination or abuse. Failing to manage the conflict could lead to tribunal attendance and even costly penalties.

Get expert guidance on workplace conflicts with Peninsula

In the end, conflict is part of everyday business culture; as all employees bring a unique set of traditions and values.

But when people are unfavourably treated or disrespected, that’s when you must deal with the situation appropriately.

Neglecting this can result in employees raising claims of unfair and unlawful treatment. Which can have detrimental effects on your employee relations and business reputation.

Peninsula offers expert guidance on dealing with workplace conflicts and disputes. We have bespoke workplace mediation policies and procedures which can help manage disputes lawfully.

Our clients get access to 24/7 HR consultation on grievance and disciplinary management. And if you are not yet a client, you can still enjoy free advice from one of our business specialists.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.

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