The Root of Conflict: Part 1
Conflict is an unavoidable factor in any interpersonal relationship including business relationships. While it’s easy to see the negative aspects of conflict, there can be some constructive aspects as well. Before we can understand how to handle and resolve conflict, it’s important to understand the main causes so good managers can have potential areas of conflict on their radar to be addressed quickly and with a level of professionalism that leaves all involved feeling heard and valued while keeping the team dynamic positive and productive.
There are four main causes of conflict in a work environment; poor communication: difference in personalities, different core values, and competition. Of the four, poor communication is by far the most common causes of conflict. Communication break downs, miscommunications, and even different styles of communicating can lead to the largest breakdowns in an organization. Imagine a manager assigned a project to employee A and also asked employee B to collaborate. However, the manager fails to mention this collaborative position to employee A leaving said employee feeling unsure of their role, or that the manager has lost faith in their abilities. While neither assumption may be accurate, this lack of communication can cause a breakdown in the work environment due to supposition. A simple head’s up and redefining of the program scope could’ve avoided the entire situation.
Each person has a unique background with a unique set of experiences which colors the way they view the world around them. In any given work environment, you’ll find a variety of personalities that have defined opinions and attitudes based upon those personality-defining backgrounds and experiences. These unique people all bring something special to the table in any organization, but they can also result in conflict as misunderstands may arise born solely out of the inability to walk in someone other’s shoes.
Some people would argue that core value conflict is similar to personality conflict as they both appear on opposite sides of the same coin. However, values tend to be less about the personalities at play in an environment and more about the perception of other’s workplace values. It is most oftentimes experienced when age differences of team members are expressed. Some generations feel a strong sense of company loyalty and perceive their younger counterparts to be more focused on personal lives and social interactions instead of corporate loyalty. These misconceptions on value can be a source on immense conflict as one employee may feel another’s motivation and therefore contributions are less team-focused and productive.
Lastly, let’s delve into competition as a source of workplace conflict. This is the unhealthiest and oftentimes hardest to combat areas of conflict for any manager to overcome and rectify. Unmanaged competition can lead to sabotage, insults, threats, and other means of a hostile work environment. Don’t misunderstand, a healthy bit of competition can bring out the best in employees, but when money-based rewards are at stake, even the most honorable among employees might try take an unfair advantage. So, before a manager sets a “friendly competition” forth to their employees, they should be well-versed in conflict and resolution.
Unresolved conflict can result in lower productivity, higher turnover, and an overall negative work environment not only for the involved employees, but also the team, organization, or business as a whole. Learning strategies to combat conflict will make any manager an asset to their organization.
To learn how to bring your A Game to work for conflict resolution, call Front Line Leadership and inquire about our Leadership Program. For more information on Leadership Coaching and how the Front Line Leadership Program can transform your organization, contact Robert Winter at 832-483-5535 or fill out the contact form on our contact page. Impactful strategies for successful leaders starts at Front Line.