Conflict at work is more commonplace than we might imagine, which arguably makes it an important topic for consideration. For example, Beqiri (*1) highlights that in the United States, 85% of employees experience conflict in some way. This fact indicates a high level of discord present within the workplace today, which requires us to explore ways of dealing with conflict situations.
We can start by looking at the definition of conflict management, as outlined at the HR Zone (*2), below:-
“Conflict management refers to techniques and ideas designed to reduce the negative effect of conflict and enhance the positive outcomes for all parties involved.”
Interestingly, conflict resolution may also be a goal of conflict management, but the resolution factor is not always the ultimate target, because in some cases, it’s not always possible.
Let’s take a look at the three types of conflict, which commonly arise within the work environment, as detailed by Shonk (*3) at Harvard Law School. Although these types of conflict can benefit from open communication, teamwork, and mutual respect, in many cases something more is needed in the way of targeted conflict resolution tactics. The three types of conflict are task conflict, relationship conflict, and value conflict, as follows:-
- Task Conflict – This type of conflict often relates to objective issues in connection with work assignments. Quite often, these conflicts may appear to be easy to resolve, but when one digs deeper, it appears that there may be other convoluted conflicts at the base of the problem. Usually, a senior manager may be able to act as the mediator by using active listening and open-ended questioning in a collaborative way to uncover the root cause between the team members. This type of mediation is often more successful in solving conflict problems than having a manager enforce an outcome upon the parties involved.
- Relationship Conflict – The causes of relationship conflict in the workplace are manifold (*4). They include problems that arise due to people, working together towards a common goal, but at the same time, emanating from different backgrounds, possessing varied temperaments with contrasting experiences and diverse preferences. In other words, we are all unique human beings! These elements illustrate how our differences can bring about disharmony, since we all have our own way of working, which may not suit others. Many people put such conflicts down to a clash of personalities, which may be true. In a case where there has been a long-term distant and uncomfortable relationship with a work colleague, sometimes simply inviting the said person to lunch, during which time you can find out more about your co-worker, may be a good starting point to build up rapport. You may even find that you both have similar concerns about the company for whom you work, which could help your relationship to flourish.
- Value Conflict – We all grow up with a set of values and identities, some of which may be predicated upon our religious, political and cultural background. Once again, we all have our own special family history, which may work well with most of our colleagues, but possibly not with everyone. Over time, the differences may result in a face-to-face disagreement with a colleague, who finds any excuse to broker an argument. Therefore, a well-known method of dealing with a values-based dispute is by opening the lines of communication toward a mutual understanding through respectful dialogue.
Therefore, we can conclude that there are a number of ways that we can experience conflict at work, whether it is between colleagues, our boss, or even with clients. Conflict management is a complex subject, which is important, because learning how to successfully manage conflicts can make not only our time at work much happier, but also it can make the workplace happier for everyone. If you agree that conflict management at work is important, then at Staff Defence, we provide the perfect course to help you understand how to deal with any conflict. Please click on the link below to review and sign up for the Conflict Management Level Two Award training course:-
(*1). Guide for Managing Conflict in the Workplace January 2019 (Gini Beqiri) https://www.virtualspeech.com
(*2). What is Conflict Management? https://www.hrzone.com
(*3). 3 Types of Conflict and How to Address Them March 2020 (Katie Shonk)
(*4). 6 Common Causes of Workplace Conflict and How to Avoid Them October 2019 (Marie Verity) https://www.vital-learning.com/blog/causes-of-workplace-conflict