Although conflict in the workplace is not necessarily a bad thing, it can be if it is not resolved quickly and effectively. Conflicts left unaddressed can fester and spread to other people and other business units, resulting in productivity loss and communication problems between coworkers and teams. In the worst case scenario, conflicts may even lead to lawsuits.
Fortunately, business leaders and managers with adequate conflict resolution training can bring disputes to a close in a way that benefits everyone involved. When conflicts are resolved successfully, they can lead to creative solutions to problems on top of new respect for everyone involved.
One of the keys to mitigating any heated conversations or exchanges is being able to identify them before they happen or when they are still fresh and nipping them in the bud. So, how do most conflicts start? Here are a few common causes often observed in the workplace:
1. Poor communication
Every workplace relies on communication to get tasks done quickly and successfully. However, there are so many different ways to communicate, it is easy for wires to get crossed and messages get delayed or unread.
Say, for example, someone was assigned to a task. Because of an error in communication, that task is never completed. Then, managers must assign the task to another worker to ensure it is done in time to hit deadlines. This can create ill feelings between all three parties – the manager because the employee missed the deadline, the initial worker because he or she feels as if they are being blamed for something they are not at fault for and the other employee because he or she feels they are being assigned more work because someone else messed up.
"Failing to communicate in the workplace may cause employees to make incorrect assumptions and believe workplace gossip," Small Business Chronicle contributor Rose Johnson explained. "Poor communication in the workplace not only causes conflict but decreases productivity and employee morale."
2. Misunderstandings, particularly regarding policies and practices
Businesses often have many policies and regulations. Although these rules often mean well, sometimes they are not always transparent or easy to comply with. This can lead to accidental or purposeful noncompliance. AZCentral noted that difficult policies can create conflicts, particularly if employees deem them as being intrusive or counterproductive.
For example, employees may be required to fill out paperwork or logs after completing a task. They may feel this takes time away from doing other more mission-critical activities and may put off or not do these administrative tasks. This may result in conflict between the employee and higher-ups or other departments that must account for this activity.
3. Personal differences
Most organizations hire people because they feel these individuals are well-suited or talented, not necessarily because they will get along with everyone. Whenever companies hire a multitude of people, personal differences will rise. Sometimes it is because employees have unique personalities, other times it is due to them having separate values. Regardless of what the issue is, this can lead to conflicts that must be resolved.