Work conflicts

Mental Health Blog / Friday, December 28th, 2018

Opposing ideas can take businesses to new heights – if they are managed properly.  However, as a result of being poorly managed, most work related conflicts do the exact opposite.  Unless they are addressed and resolved quickly, conflicts can cause a range of problems including low morale, open hostilities, a lack of productivity and customer dissatisfaction.

To prevent such unnecessary and unpleasant experiences in the workplace, it’s important to know how work conflicts start and how they can be efficiently resolved.

Because no two people are identical, conflicts can break out over the smallest of things. However, these six areas tend to be the most common:

  • Changes in environments, policies, routines or people
  • Differing personalities
  • Limited resources
  • Poor communication
  • Coworkers not pulling their weight
  • Over demanding bosses

Naturally, taking measures to prevent these sources of stress is the easiest answer. Unfortunately, this isn’t always achievable. Sometimes, the best you can do is to deal with work conflicts as they arise.

In 1972, Thomas Kilman created a model that identifies five of the most common strategies for resolving conflict. They are:

  • Accommodating: One party steps completely down and gives the other exactly what it wants.
  • Competing: Both parties refuse to negotiate and fiercely defend their position. The conflict will continue until one of the parties wins.
  • Avoiding: Neither party immediately pursues its objectives, providing time for temperaments to clear.
  • Collaborating: A long term approach in which both parties work together to find creative solutions that ensure the objectives of both are met.
  • Compromising: Seeking a quick solution, both parties make sacrifices to obtain their most important objectives.

Choosing which strategy or combination of strategies to use depends on the specifics of the conflict as well as where your strengths lie. In so doing, be sensitive and proactive. Always keep in mind that the goal is to resolve work conflicts as quickly as possible before they cause long-term damage.

Often it helps to talk to someone outside of the work environment to gain a different perspective on conflict in the workplace.  Talking to a counsellor can help you understand how you can cope with conflicts better and give you space to share your concerns in an impartial, supportive environment.

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