Causes of Conflict in the Workplace

Conflict is an unavoidable part of life, whether personally or professionally. Unfortunately, there's no way to steer clear of it completely. Of course, this means you're going to deal with some type of interpersonal conflict at work, whether as a manager/supervisor who has to provide conflict resolution for all the involved parties, or you may face it yourself. There are many causes of conflict in the workplace. Ultimately, we're all human beings who have different beliefs, feelings, thoughts, and experiences, and not everyone can get along all the time. Furthermore, there will simply be difficult employees that you come across that you have to effectively manage, communicate with, and connect with as a leader in any workplace. The good news is that workplace conflict doesn't have to be feared by the leaders in your organization.

Our team of experts has had decades of experience with helping companies implement effective leadership training and employee communication tools in their organizations. With success in everything from increasing employee engagement and retention to helping managers and supervisors become better leaders, we help you to empower your leaders to become more productive with the skills, tools, and knowledge they need.

We've seen firsthand what sort of effects poor communication and lack of strong leadership can have on organizations, large and small. We'll cover some of the most common causes of conflict at work and what you can do to recognize and overcome them.

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Common Causes of Workplace Conflict

As we've stated, some amount of workplace conflict is natural. Unfortunately, it doesn't always get resolved the most efficiently, if at all. It's important to know what sort of situations can bring about conflict in your workplace so that you can be prepared to resolve it when it arises. Not only that, if you are aware of the scenarios that cause conflict, you can take control and decrease the likelihood of occurrence where and when you can!

Poor Communication or No Communication At All

The most common reason employees and supervisors alike see conflict in the workplace is poor communication or lack thereof. There's a big difference between your leaders *thinking* they are great at communicating and being great communicators. We've written about some of the ways you can improve communication in the workplace, but the most important way to do this is effective leadership training that ensures your leaders have the skills they need to communicate effectively, take notice when problems arise, and recognize the causes of workplace conflict. 

When communication is lacking, it's easy for there to be wires crossed and miscommunications between not only leadership and employees but team members at all levels. It's essential to implement an open-door policy so that employees know they can come to supervisors and managers with any feedback or concerns and feel confident that their voice is heard. It's equally as important to ask for frequent feedback from your employees - even if it's difficult or uncomfortable. This creates a trusting environment where everyone feels respected, and it is less likely workplace conflict will occur when all employees can be listened to and appreciated as they deserve. Personality clashes can be inevitable at work, but poor communication does not have to remain a problem in your organization. Your leaders can learn the necessary skills to talk through the situation when conflicts arise.

Toxic Work Culture or a Hostile Work Environment 

Another common reason for workplace conflict can be a hostile work environment or a company where work culture is simply not an important focus. Ultimately, culture plays a huge role in everything in your organization - from employee engagement to employee retention, morale, productivity, foster poor work habits, and, yes, potential workplace conflict.

Consider the study from Deloitte that showed that "82 percent of respondents said that culture is a potential competitive advantage. However, only 28 percent of survey respondents believed they understood their culture well, while 19 percent believed they had the "right culture." If only 19 percent of your workplace feels they are working in the right environment, with the right culture, this can set you up for high turnover rates. If an employee does not feel happy and satisfied with their working environment, their productivity and morale will be much lower than you'd like.

Offer opportunities for team-building, give your employees a voice and reward their productivity. These are simple ways you can build a harmonious work environment and help strengthen relationships between coworkers and between leadership and team members. All of the above will boost employee morale and will also lessen the likelihood of conflict.

causees of conflict at work

Clashing Leadership Styles Causes Conflict in the Workplace

Another of the common causes of conflict at work is the clashing of different leadership styles. Personality differences are normal, but workplace relationships tend to suffer when leadership can't get on the same page. Although there are different types of conflict (employee vs. employee, employee vs. leadership, etc.), personality clashes among leadership is not uncommon. Different leadership styles don't have to cause conflict, but when a new manager/supervisor is onboarded, it may cause friction if there are two or more leaders who are used to running things differently and now suddenly need to be on the same page.

One step to building a better work environment for everyone is to ensure that your leaders have the skills necessary to work through potential causes of workplace conflict. Whether it be poor communication among team members or clashing work styles with one another as leaders, conflict can be properly managed. 

Ultimately, your job as an employer, along with your Human Resources team's partnership, is to implement the right leadership training for your organization. You should feel confident that your management team is equipped with all the right tools and skills to connect and communicate effectively with employees, collaborate, and strengthen and uphold the company culture. 

Leadership Training to Manage Workplace Conflicts

A lack of leadership skills may be costing your company a great deal. How many potential issues could be overcome with better leadership skills? How many employees are leaving due to a poor relationship with a leader, lack of communication from leadership, or simply a workplace culture they don't feel is right for them?

If you're struggling with conflict in the workplace, it's time to implement a solution. Don't let personality differences or poor communication be a barrier to your positive workplace culture. A Better Leader offers specialized leadership training that can help your leaders strengthen connections with employees, build employee engagement and retention, and support their teams. When your leaders complete "Conflict Resolution" training, which is just one of the many solutions we provide, they will learn what conflict is and how it can harm (and help) a team, what time is the right time for leaders to intervene, and more! Don't wait another day to utilize our top-rated video, websites, and e-learning options. Click the banner below to get started today!

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About the Author Jennifer Orechwa

With over 25 years in the industry, and now as IRI's Director of Business Development, Jennifer has gained a unique perspective on what it takes to build a culture of engagement. By blending a deep understanding of labor and employee relations with powerful digital marketing knowledge, Jennifer has helped thousands of companies achieve behavioral change at a cultural level.

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