Main Sources of Conflict in the Workplace
Conflict is a common occurrence in any work environment. A typical workplace comprises of people from different walks of life with various cultural backgrounds, experiences, values, ethics, and personalities; and where there is diversity, there is bound to be a clash somewhere. To effectively manage workplace conflict, supervisors need to understand first the nature and source of conflict among their team.
Office tension occurs when co-workers perceive their interests to be incompatible. Because of their vast differences, they may feel like the other party does not or refuses to see and acknowledge their point of view, and that will cause disagreement.
Supervisors need to recognize and address staff issues effectively because, if not managed properly, it could escalate into stress, job dissatisfaction, endless disputes and many other detrimental effects that will affect job efficiency.
The first step in addressing workplace conflict is uncovering its primary source. There are various reasons as to why it occurs and the four of the most prevalent issues that plague work environments are discussed below.
1. Interpersonal Interactions
Interpersonal relations are the most common sources of workplace conflict. Because of their differences in personality, cultural background, moral values and experiences, people will have different views of the same scenario. When they can’t reach an amicable solution in a situation where they have to work together, a conflict is bound to happen.
Cultural and racial perceptions can lead to quick conclusions about a particular person, which might not be accurate and could cause offense to the other party. Also, because they come from different walks of life, signs and meaning might differ greatly; what could be an innocent gesture in one culture can be very unpleasant in another, and this will cause a lot of tension especially in a multiracial workplace.
Misinterpretations, language barriers and communication skills can also cause a lot of conflict in interpersonal relations.
Gender-related disputes may also occur if co-workers believe there are more advantages for a gender than the other in an organization. It includes cases where a particular gender feels unsafe or uncomfortable because of interactions with another gender, e.g. an employee repeatedly making inappropriate comments about a particular gender and the management not doing anything about it.
Another common cause of interpersonal conflict in the workplace is individual ideas about personal success. Some employees might have a strong drive for work-related achievement, and that always tends to clash with those who do not value the same principles, especially if they have to work together as a team.
Interpersonal conflict creates a lot of tension in the office space—fueled by office politics, gossip and rumors. If it’s not handled appropriately, any tension may cause employees to feel alienated or abused, which could even lead to charges of discrimination and harassment.
2. Organizational Structures
The most common issues with organizational structure stem from office hierarchy. Supervisors and employees might have different ideas about work ethics and standards, which sometimes cause conflicts.
Some supervisors can be overbearing and abusive of their power that could upset employees. In the same way, some subordinates are disrespectful and resentful of a supervisor’s position above them, thereby deliberately opposing instructions given to them.
Distribution of duties might also cause arguments if employees feel like they get more work than their colleagues, or if they feel like one employee gets better tasks than the others. People might also become unhappy if they feel that their tasks are not what they want or expected to do.
Staff across departments might also have conflicts with regards to resource allocation. One department might feel like another is given a bigger budget, or they get more funds and equipment than the rest. Such instances will make employees feel less valued, which not only creates conflict and tension between departments, but also with management.
Changes in a company can cause a lot of confusion and stress among workers. Using or installing new technology is usually complicated and it takes time to adjust to, causing employees frustrations and consequently reduce their efficiency. Cases like this sometimes happen, especially if employees do not support the implementation of unfamiliar tools and methods.
A change in the managerial team, team shuffles, downsizing and company reorganization will disrupt employees’ usual routine and work life. Most will be unhappy about this and issues may arise among employees—be it in rank and files and in administrative positions.
4. External Factors
Economic factors such as recession, changing markets and industry competition can cause struggle within an organization.
In times of bad economy, employees would assume that they have to work more to catch up with the company’s problems and benefits may be cut to cover the costs of operations. Management might also suffer internal conflict on decisions to keep making a profit.
There could also be underlying problems with suppliers that could add to a company’s headache. If goods are not delivered on time, it will affect customer service and cause problems between the company and its customers.
The government, stakeholders and other groups can create pressure for an organization and affect the way it operates. The management will then have to insist on a sort of agreement that appeases or complies with stakeholder demands.
Issues, tensions, disputes and conflicts are all part of the business game—it doesn’t completely go away. However, an organization should be responsible enough to recognize and address anything that bogs down their productivity and success. If a conflict is let open or dragged on for a long time, it will create tension, which will lead to a non-conducive working environment that will affect operations and production.