What is workplace conflict?

Conflict is simply defined as a sharp disagreement or opposition of interests or ideas. In any workplace where people are working together, conflict is a normal and natural occurrence. Workplace conflict tends to lower the team morale, increase absenteeism, and decrease productivity. 

It has been estimated that supervisors spend at least 25 percent of their time resolving workplace conflicts. The most common response to any situation of conflict is the flight-or-fight response; some prefer run away or avoid the situation at all costs, and others prefer to battle it out. In either case, we often feel uncomfortable and dissatisfied with the outcome because no resolution is achieved.

By learning how to constructively resolve conflict, we can turn a potentially destructive situation into an opportunity for growth, creativity, and enhanced performance.

Sources of Conflict

Different communication styles can lead to misunderstandings between faculty and staff members, or between employees and supervisors. Lack of communication drives conflict underground.

All workplaces are made up of individuals who see the world differently. Conflict occurs when there is a lack of acceptance and understanding of these differences.

Conflict occurs when individual employees fight for their personal goals, ignoring organizational goals and organizational well-being.

Too often, employees feel they have to compete for available resources in order to do their job. In a resource-scarce environment, conflict can arise despite awareness of how scarce resources may be.

All work environments are made up of differing personalities. Unless colleagues understand and accept each other's approach to work and problem-solving, conflict may occur.

When one or more employees within a work unit are not performing/meeting their potential and this is not addressed, conflict is inevitable.