Some would deny “Oh! No it doesn’t happen here”.  Others would reason against it “We are all professionals. We don’t have any conflicts”.

But the truth is that most of us are not willing to admit that cropping up of conflicts is a part of work life. However, whether you are a first time intern or a blooming company’s CEO, there are equal chances of your getting into some kind of conflict controversy.  

Even small children argue with each other on petty issues but no matter how grave their conflict is, they keep communicating. Because the moment you stop communicating, all doors of resolution close. In my childhood days, my mom used to tell me that things like conflicts, arguments and disagreements are also essential for building healthy relationships. At that time, I didn’t really get it but now I do.  

With most of professionals technically spending 1/3rd of their day at their workplace, possessing pleasant working relationships has become an inevitable part of one’s job. When we share our opinions, it is natural to have discrepancy. But how much do we allow such difference in opinions to influence our relations lie in our hands. Sometimes even a mere misunderstanding can lead to cassation of communication.  


“Peace is not the absence of conflict. It is the ability to cope with it.”
        - Mahatma Gandhi


It won’t be wrong to say that dealing with conflicts at workplace is one of the biggest challenges to deal with. But once you learn the rules of the game then there is a smooth sailing. The most essential aspect in this is that the manager and the concerned persons should acceptand acknowledge that there has been a conflicting experience. It has to be dealt with instead of running away.  

Conflicts can be positive as well as negative. It is similar to competition which can be good as well as bad. Emerging creative ideas can often result in positive competition among budding employees. In contrast to this, facets like unhealthy competition, harassment, discrimination etc. often stir negative conflicts at workplace which can prove hazardous to a constructive work environment.   


Conflicts are good for business   


What do you think is better- a company where employees are indifferent towards what is going on around them or one in which they are concerned about it and voice out their thoughts? I believe in the later though there are higher chances of conflict arising in it. If people of different thought processing, opinions, backgrounds come together; disagreements are sure to be present. But along with this, there are chances of greater innovation and revolution.  

Joel Peterson, chairman of JetBlue Airways in a 2014 LinkedIn post quoted conflicts as being “just a fact of life - and work. But the difference between conflict in a dysfunctional company and in a high-trust organization is how people deal with it”. He says ‘healthy organizations as being the nosiest’  


Types of Conflicts and Resolution


  • Discrimination/ Bias issues

Workplace biases have been an issue that has plagued the business world for quite long now. Discrimination is a potent cause of conflict and can even cause the organization to get into some sort of legal distress. Take for instance that if an employee feels being discriminated against, then it can hamper the company’s efficiency and productiveness.

  • Personality Clashes

Each one of us is different so, differences in opinions and views are bound to happen. But to what extend these effect the work culture is limited to us. It has been seen that majority of workplace conflicts are a result of misunderstandings rather than conflicting viewpoints.

  • Performance evaluation  

They say ‘the boss is always right’. However, there can be instances when the employees may disagree with employers on performance and appraisal related issues among others.

  • Client concerns

For any organization to excel, the interest of the customers is the foremost. When any conflicting situation arises between an employee and a client, most managers tend to go by the latter’s expression. This orthodox needs to be reformed because it need not be the case every time. In fact, dealing with such conflicts requires a more sustained approach than others.


Is it even worth it?

Infact, according to a study commissioned by CPP Inc., publishers of the Myers-Briggs Assessment and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument :

U.S. employees spend 2.1 hours per week involved with conflict, which amounts to approximately $359 billion in paid hours (based on an average hourly earnings of $17.95), or the equivalent of 385 million working days.

In addition to this, out of 76 percent of employees who receive conflict management and dispute resolution training:

  • 41 percent developed a better understanding of others
  • 29 percent found a better solution to the workplace problem

Ways to deal with workplace conflicts

Just like a doctor cannot heal the patient without diagnosing the pathology, similarly a conflict cannot be resolved before knowing the entire story. This involves investigating the cause of the conflict, taking into account the narrative from both sides.  

Asian Journal of Management Research sugg
ested that ‘Indians view conflict detrimental for personal and organizational wellbeing’ and argued that ‘Indian managerial conflict resolution tendencies reflect Hindu norms of seeking a solution that pleases everyone, as well as British norms of active, mutual problem solving’.

Some key points helpful in the same include:

  • Keeping a calm outlook towards a conflict is crucial as that gives clarity to the issue.
  • It is necessary to do face the situation instead of going into a denial mode. Most people believe that if they won’t acknowledge it, then it would disappear.
  • Listening and understanding the case of both the sides before arriving at any conclusion.
  • Maintain the focus on the goal which is to solve the disagreement. So, it is necessary to keep all pre-conceived notions aside address the issue as a whole instead of playing the blame-game. 

Besides this, as Winston Churchill had suggested that ‘we should see an opportunity in every difficulty’. Thus, rather than just concentrating on the troublesome part, we should look at the ideas, creativity team spirit that can be developed via this.

Prevention is better than cure

Maintaining proper communication both interpersonal as well as intrapersonal. That’s because interpersonal communication helps in resolving of any conflicts that arise while intrapersonal communication prevents any from surfacing. It has been often quoted that 90% of work conflicts are due to wrong tone and voice compared to only 10% due to diverse opinions.

Keeping a tab on personal problems and emotions from interfering in the work environment. Though this isn’t often reported or brought to light, yet our personal rivalries have often resulted in our subsequent conflicting behaviour. It can be better explained as you are more likely to engage in a conflict with someone you envy than with someone you look up to.

Setting the right example and letting others know about the acceptable forms of behaviour.
After all, what we see is what we produce. 

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