Conflict in the Workplace: Types and Handling Ways

When people interact, conflict occurs naturally. When employees are working together as a team in an organization on a given task, there are always cases of disagreement on how things should be done, or what each of them has to do to get the job done. At times, the issue might be even on how one should treat each other. These cases are normal and at times, they result in positive aspects. This results in a heated conversation and helps to come up with the best solution for the given task. These conflict interactions help in individual growth and may result in the emergence of new ideas of thinking and doing things that would be useful to everyone. (Sandra 2004).

On the other hand, unnecessary conflicts with a negative effect on the production of an organization are also evident. As this conflict turns to an extreme level, disagreements are also immense and these unnecessary conflicts are negative to the relationship of the workers. This manner of conflicts in the workplace generates frequent expressions of emotion, frustration, and anger.

This makes life and times in the workplace to be less enjoyable, where other workers are a bit more than uncomfortable whereas, for another group of people, the conflicts reach them to a point where they are much than willing to leave the organization. For example, if, in a meeting, I call another team member a “non-contemplator fast decision-maker,” this would most probably not be productive. (Robert 1998).

Definition and explanation of terms

A conflict is a “struggle between opposite needs.” (James 2001). It can also be termed as a “process in which individuals or groups take actions that interfere with or block the interest of others.”

“Conflict is also termed as the competition between interdependent parties who perceive that they have incompatible needs, goals, desires, or ideas.” (Dewakar 1998).

Note that the parties should be dependent on each other and this can be verbal conflict or non-verbal. Workplace conflicts may have positive effects on the production of an organization but in most cases, they lead to negative impacts.

Types of conflicts

Employee-manager conflict

An employee as an individual feels frustrated when a barrier comes in the path of his attainment of the desired objective. This could be a denial of promotion due to non-availability of posts, personality clashes with the superior, emotional biases, and many more. In most cases, this type of conflict turns the employee indecisive and finds himself in conflict about his goals and objectives. (Sandra 2004).

In most cases, this type of conflict negatively impacts an organization. Sometimes an employee may feel as if the other person views him as the problem. He may read something negative into a person’s comments and feel as if he is personally attacked if the manager points out an error he has made. His makes it hard to engage in a dialogue and one feels curious about the manager’s perspective and interests, with the mentality that he is really the problem. (Dewakar 1998).

This type of conflict also occurs when a need arises for the swapping of shifts and there is no employee who is willing to accommodate that. This imposes undue hardships on the employer if more so this might be related to the religious conflicts on Sabbath days.

Employee-employee conflicts

The manner by which the different employees in an organization approach their work can be causal for conflicts. In this case, one of the employees might possess a highly analytical and systematic way of handling a project whereas the other haphazardly works on a project with respect to the final results. This difference in temperaments may result in a collision between workers. (Sandra 2004).

Sources of conflicts

Conflicts in an organization can be triggered by many cases. Among the common situations are:

In an organization, there might be shortage of the available resources. These may include the working space or the furniture’s. In this case, the workers will be competing for the available resources, and this scarcity of the valued resources results into conflicts between the fellow employees. These types of conflicts are the most frequent. (James 2001).

In some cases, the manager above an employee might disregard a particular employee with no definite reason and in turn favor the other partner. This results into conflict between the two employees in a bid for the favors. (James 2001).

Conflict may also occur when one’s personal emotions, feelings or attitudes are incompatible with others. This leads to the differences in ideas which conflicts with those of others. (Dewakar 1998).

There are also cases of work place conflicts that are related to the religion back ground. This is a case where certain workers segregate another worker on the basis of religion differences. This may also occur when an employee seeks an accommodation for a shift schedule requiring work on his or her Sabbath: this management allows to employee to swap the shifts with another worker; but the employee believes it is a sin to solicit someone else to work on the Sabbath. (Michael 1998).

Good organizational conflict

Good organizational conflict occurs through the normal interaction of how things should be done. They arise a people disagree on how a particular task should be done to achieve the best results. In effect, these disagreements allows the organization and also the people to grow, helps in the effective solving of problems and balancing of the inertia by which most institutions develops. These conflicts assist in examining whatever has been de-valued and the disposal of the post dated manner of approaching decisions. This as a result stimulates creativity and helps in the permanent solving of problems. (Marick 2001).

Solution to conflicts and recommendation

Conflicts in most cases develop in stages and they can be easily recognized to help curb and set the stage for the future conflicts of the same or related manner. This helps to deal with the important conflicts and lead to a permanent solution. For a conflict to be successfully solved, both the parties should perceive it and hence feel the need fro a solution. (Gary 2004).

There are various approaches for solving conflicts in an organization. These techniques among others include:

Reference to the higher management

This involves the reconciliation of the senior managers to help discuss the solution to the given problem. In this case the chain of command is usually applied where in most cases this has some limitations. For a conflict that recurs, the managers might not be in a position to offer the right resolution. Most of the managers are not aware of the daily to daily running of the affairs in eth organization and hence they might not be in a position to note the source of the conflict. In most cases, this leads to the replacement of the perceived worker which is not always the best solution. (Sandra 2004).

Alteration of scripts and myths

Organization’s culture that has developed with time might be the cause to some conflicts. These could also be some behavior routines that are deemed to be part of the organization. This could be altered to allow the active participation and discussion of issues and disagreements. These include the monthly meeting of the managers with the problem solving agenda, but this with time turns into just a common forum where the managers acts to be solving the problem but they are not in real addressed. (James 2001).


In this case, the solution to the conflict aims at the satisfaction of both parties. This works well if both parties are ready for reconciliation and the understanding of each other’s point of view. This is a win-win situation, for example, the differences in the financial managers and the personnel over an organizational interest can be solved by the general manager. (Laurie 2003).

The compromising technique

This technique works in search for a mutually acceptable solution that is partially satisfying both parties. In this case both parties are ready for inter party views. For example, considering a financial incentive that has been granted to the sales department for superb sales and ignoring the production department that made the deliveries in time results in a conflict between the two since they both made equal contributions. This settles the problem on short term in reference to the long term solution. For that case, there is neither a total win nor a total loss. (Marick 2001).

The difference between healthy and unhealthy conflicts is not whether conflicts exist but how conflicts are handled. Furthermore, all conflicts can be handled and resolved. In some cases the use of counselor works effectively in the mitigation of conflicts in the work place. (Jamie 1996).

Counseling at work place helps in addressing the fundamental questions in the relationship of workers. Work place counseling works on double standards where it helps in the personal counseling for individuals’ growth and also the work related counseling for the problems related to the work of the employee. For the counseling to be fully fruitful, the goals of the organization should be the same as those of the professional counselor. (Michael 1994).

Because conflict is inevitable in the work place, and in some cases even desirable, it becomes hard to determine the nature and the extent of intervention required. Conflicts that are allowed to continue without being managed create an unfavorable environment for employees. (Marick 2001).

When conflict begins to affect the productivity and effectiveness, it needs to be addressed, not ignored. While not all conflicts will get to the point of requiring the managerial intervention, some will, and a good leader can plan for that and be ready when it occurs.

There are various sources of conflicts some emanating from the management, fellow employees or due to lack of enough care from the employer. However, these conflicts can be managed through use of effective strategies after the clear understanding of the development of the conflict.


Dewakar G 1998). Performance Appraisal and Compensation Management: A Modern Approach. Sage Publishers. New York.

Gary H. (2004).The joy of conflict resolution: New Society Publishers. Canada.

James G. H. (2001). Organizational behavior: Oxford University Publishers. Boulevard.

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Laurie D. (2003). Employee relations: Allen and Unwin Publishers. Australia.

Marick Francis Masters, Robert R. Albright. (2001). The complete guide to conflict resolution in the workplace: AMACOM Publishers. New York.

Michael C. (1994). Work place counseling: a systematic approach to employee care. Sage publications. New York.

Michael W, Bruce F, Daniel S. (1998). Religion in the workplace: ABA Publishing. New York.

Robert B. (1998). Conflict prevention in the workplace: using cooperative communication. Bacal and Associate printers: Canada.

Sandra D. Collins, James S. O’Rourke. (2005). Managing Conflict and Workplace Relationships: South Western Cengage Learning. New York.

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