While everyone is different, we should all strive to be productive, work hard at our jobs and maintain healthy work relationships. However, some people just rub each other the wrong way, no matter how healthy the work environment is. It happens – especially when you add the pressure of deadlines, projects and the fears of losing a client or a pitch. There are plenty of reasons why there is conflict at any organisation, making those involved feel bitter and resentful, and if the problem is left to fester; it will start affecting everyone else in the office. Poor leadership is a significant reason for conflict because the team may feel they are not being led well, resulting in poor company performance and low staff morale. To avoid such a scenario, managing conflict resolution at work is essential, and we will help you explore the reasons and methods to help any leader motivate their staff once again.

Causes Of Conflict

  • Besides mismanagement of resources leading to both low turnover and uncompetitiveness due to poor leadership, a lack of communication can lead to a void of information. When the team doesn’t know what’s going on or what they’re expected to do, it can lead to conflict with management.
  • The feeling that salary and benefits are not equal at work leads to a significant drop in morale, and a lack of resources to complete one’s projects and work can be demoralising.
  • Another frustration trigger for an already demoralised team is when the systems are not well maintained, leading to work disruption, delays, outages and missed deadlines which in turn leads to a loss of clients.

The lack of communication mentioned earlier then results in more conflict, especially when the team want change but there is a resistance from management. Such resistance can be seen as a threat when the reason for the change is missed completely. When a team raises issues, and they persist long after being raised, it suggests that the employees’ solutions and suggestions are being ignored, which leads to a hostile work environment. A negative working environment is when the culture of a company has become toxic due to unfair treatment, bullying, fear, undermining others and entitled employees or even employers.

Signs Of Conflict

Now that you understand the “What” of conflict let us shift to its signs between individuals and how to spot these warning signs. While any manager might be tempted to ignore the conflict and pretend that it doesn’t exist, hoping it will go away is not the correct method of dealing with it. Because we all know that when left unresolved, a conflict may lead to frustration, anger, communication breakdown and unhappiness at work, and can even escalate to heated arguments, finger-pointing, and assigning blame at each other, making it crucial to speedily resolve conflicts in the workplace. Before it ever gets to this stage, a manager needs to notice the warning signs, including mistrust between team members, belittling, and a lack of collaboration and cooperation. More red flags can manifest in passive-aggressiveness, reduced productivity, gossiping, lack of interest, fault-finding, harsh emails, tension, retaliating, lack of respect, hurtful words, and wanting to win the argument.

Serious conflict can quickly turn into claims of Workplace Bullying which is covered under the Workplace Health and Safety Act. In general, it costs the Australian economy up to $36 billion each year, with the average case amounting to $17,000-24,000 for employers. Legal penalties alone can carry a heavy price tag, with the WHS Act fining corporations as much as $500,000 for a category 3 offence and $3,000,000 for a category 1 offence. Can you afford that expense?

How To Resolve The Conflict

Now that you’re aware of the signs of conflict in the workplace and understand that ignoring it is not an option, what do you do? Well, each incident is different, including the severity of it and how seriously the situation needs to be treated.  But there are some general steps you can follow to try to come to a sound resolution. Playing the role of a mediator is one way to go about it. Find the time and place to listen to both parties involved in the conflict, ensuring you take no sides. Then take the time to figure out the source of the battle; this can be done by asking direct questions without beating around the bush. Doing this will help you get to the bottom of the hidden issue which has been causing friction between the parties. Once you understand the cause, you can quickly identify what led to it, including specific actions and behaviours, then determine why the conflict started and when it started. With all of the information on hand, you can then begin to talk to each party about how to resolve their issue.

A first step will always be prevention instead of the actual fire fighting of workplace complaints and conflict. Have you got your workplace bullying policy in place, what about your grievance policy and procedure and also your code of conduct? If you haven’t then you need to seriously think about getting them.

Fresh HR Insights has the personnel to help you resolve any workplace conflict as well as create these policies and procedures. We are HR Consultants on the Gold Coast, and we have more than a decade of experience, both nationally and internationally. You do not have to deal with conflict and the resulting impact on your own, we can step in and help you understand why people do what they do in the workplace. For more information, browse our website and also check our employee handbooks.