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Avoiding Workplace Conflict

Published On: January 22, 2014

Workplace conflicts are bound to happen. Spending time with the same people every day means that you can really get to know them which can lead to great work place friendships or, sometimes, to workplace conflict.

As adults, we know that we will not get along with everyone all of the time. Unlike your life outside of work, however, the office presents a different dynamic in that calls for more diplomacy than your personal life would.

Often times it is a matter of deciding whether or not you can let something go. Learning to tell the difference between something that might be a minor annoyance to you – or an actual broader issue is the key to preventing office conflicts.

Some common sources of work place conflict are:

1.Poor Communication: different communication styles can lead to misunderstandings between employees or between employee and manager. Lack of communication can be even worse because people are left assuming details.

2.Scarce Resources: too often, employees feel they have to compete for available resources in order to do their job. In a resource scarce environment, this causes conflicts – despite awareness of how scarce resources may be.

3.Poor Performance: when one or more individuals within a work unit are not performing – not working up to potential – and this is not addressed, conflict is inevitable.

4.Personality Clashes: all work environments are made up of differing personalities. Unless colleagues understand and accept each others approach to work and problem-solving, conflict will occur.

5.Different Values: any workplace is made up of individuals who see the world differently. Conflict occurs when there is a lack of acceptance and understanding of these differences.

6.Differing Interests: conflict occurs when individual workers ‘fight’ for their personal goals, ignoring organizational goals and organizational well-being.

While avoiding conflict is the best way to prevent it, it does not solve the underlying issues or causes of the conflict.

The first three points are all things which have the potential to be remedied. Taking up these issues with your colleagues in a polite and tactful manner can be the first step in their resolution. Alternatively, your superior or HR manager can be involved to help mediate if the problem still persists.

Points 4-6, however, present more challenging issues. If you find yourself conflicting with a coworker over different values or personality clashes you have to ask yourself about the overall impact of these differences and tred carefully. In most cases the best advice is to keep your feelings to yourself unless their actions are negatively impacting the well being of others.

In summary, knowing the difference between something that is annoying to just you and a broader more serious problem is the first step to solving and avoiding workplace conflict.


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