Managing Conflict at Work

By Andrew Willis
14 May 2019

Disputes within the workplace aren’t uncommon.

It’s only natural for employees from diverse backgrounds and with different personalities to have varying opinions and beliefs. It’s important to address these issues to avoid instances of reduced productivity, motivation and morale.

For those wondering how to deal with conflict at work, it’s important to remember the first step to doing so is by recognising and understanding there’s a problem.

If left unaddressed, conflict at work may result in the deterioration of working relationships. It could also lead to increases in work-related stress, sickness absences and retention rate issues.

This post explores conflict resolution at work as well as examples of situations that may lead to disagreements.


Dealing with conflict at work

To do this effectively, it’s important to understand why conflicts arise and come up with a system that addresses the issues.

Disputes may occur among two or more employees or between yourself and your staff. It could also be inter-department issues or even smaller groups within a department.

While mediation may address many workplace differences, other more destructive conflicts at work may require further action.


Resolving conflict at work

The best way to resolve conflict at work is by talking to all parties involved. When discussing issues, it’s important to refer to specific instances instead of generalising.

This allows you to focus on an exact event or behaviour instead of personality traits.

Depending on the particular case, the process of resolution should involve the following:

  • Recognise the existence of the conflict.
  • Identify all parties involved with an agreement to address the issue.
  • Understand the reason for the dispute and perspective of all parties.
  • Determine the resolution most beneficial to employees and your business.
  • Identify procedures that could trigger further conflict amongst all involved.
  • Introduce mediation from a third party (HR representative, arbitrator or manager).
  • Consider a disciplinary procedure if needs be.

It’s important to have policies in place to address instances of conflict or disagreements at work. As well as preventing conflict in the workplace, it also helps to manage it when it occurs.


Causes of conflict at work

Staff members respond to triggers and challenging situations differently. While some employees may handle them well, others may respond in an unproductive or unhelpful manner.

Disputes at work could arise from any of the following instances:

  • Bullying and harassment.
  • Different personalities
  • Discrimination/unfair treatment.
  • Poor working conditions/environment.
  • Poor management styles.
  • Changes to the work environment, pay, opportunities, etc.

Conflict at work examples

Disagreements may occur due to various situations. In most cases, it’s usually down to a difference in working styles and opinions.

  • For example, two employees that rely on each other for certain tasks may find themselves at odds. One may prefer to complete their tasks last minute while the other likes to complete their tasks well in advance of the deadline. Conflict may arise when one feels pressure to work within another’s timeframe. This may result in increased absences from one employee in order to avoid seeing the other.
  • Disputes may also arise from poor or inconsistent management. For example, employees working in shifts may have to deal with different managers and management styles throughout the day. They’ll have their own leadership styles, one may be open and democratic while the other is more autocratic or dictatorial.
  • There’s a possibility for further clashes among employees that support opposite political parties or agendas. For example, after the EU membership referendum vote in 2016, there were many differing opinions regarding the outcome.

Expert support

Dealing with disputes at work can be a long-winded process. We can offer you up-to-date advice and guide you through the process. Call Croner on 0808 145 3383.

About the Author

Andrew Willis

Andrew Willis is the senior manager of the Litigation and Employment Department and assumes additional responsibility for managing Croner’s office based telephone HR advisory teams, who specialise in employment law, HR and commercial legal advice for small & large organisations across the United Kingdom.





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