Meaning and Source of Conflict

Conflicts can either be within one person, or they can involve several people or groups. Conflicts arise because there are needs, values or ideas that are seen to be different, and there is no means to reconcile the dispute.

Conflict in a workplace setting can be a normal part of doing business. In some cases, conflict that is managed properly can be beneficial, as when it fosters an environment of healthy competition. However, conflict may also have a detrimental effect. As a manager or business owner, you need to be aware of potential sources of conflict within your work environment.

Eight Sources of Conflict

(i) Change

Implementation of new technology can lead to stressful change. Workers who don’t adapt well to change can become overly stressed, which increases the likelihood of conflict in the workplace.

(ii) Interpersonal Relationships

When different personalities come together in a workplace, there is always the possibility they won’t mesh. Office gossip and rumors can also serve as a catalyst for deterioration of co-worker relationships.

(iii) Supervisor vs. Employee

Just as co-worker personalities may not mesh, a supervisor and employee can also experience conflict. A supervisor who is seen as overbearing or unfair can rub an employee the wrong way, which makes the working relationship more difficult.

(iv) External Changes

When the economy slides into a recession or a new competitor swoops in and steals some of a company’s market share, it can create tension within the company. This stress can lead to conflict between employees and even between upper levels of management.

(v) Poor Communication

Companies or supervisors that don’t communicate effectively can create conflict. For example, a supervisor who gives unclear instructions to employees can cause confusion as to who is supposed to do what, which can lead to conflict.

(vi) Subpar Performance

When a worker in a department is not “pulling his weight,” it can lead to conflict within the department, perhaps even escalating into a confrontational situation. A supervisor who fails to acknowledge or address the situation can add fuel to the fire.

(vii) Harassment

Harassment in the workplace can take many forms, such as sexual or racial harassment or even the hazing of a new employee. Companies that don’t have strong harassment policies in place are in effect encouraging the behavior, which can result in conflict.

(viii) Limited Resources

Companies that are looking to cut costs may scale back on resources such as office equipment, access to a company vehicle or the spending limit on expense accounts. Employees may feel they are competing against each other for resources, which can create friction in the workplace.

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