Interpersonal Conflicts in a Workplace

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Most people prefer to avoid conflicting relationships, not talk about them, hide them as long as possible. Everyone understands that conflicts have existed and will continue to exist, they are an integral part of human relationships, and one cannot say that disagreements are useless or pathological. They are normal in our life. They arise due to differences between people because the actions, ideas, feelings of each of us are not the same and sometimes come into collision with each other.

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Main points

The presentation includes four major parts: definition of interpersonal conflicts in a workplace, their classification, reasons for they occurrence, and solutions on how to mitigate and resolve them. This way, the presenter will provide the audience with the background information to bring them up to speed. Besides, people will be actively engaged into interaction with the speaker. The presentation could be regarded as a useful tool that will help to minimize the frequency of interpersonal conflicts in a workplace.

Definition of interpersonal conflicts

A conflict is a collision of opposing interests, goals, positions, opinions of two or more people. In any conflict situation, the participants in the competition and the object of the conflict are distinguished (Denes, Crowley, Aloia, Denes, 2020). The conflict is what each of the conflicting parties claims, which causes their opposition, the subject of their dispute, one of the participants gaining fully or partially depriving the other side of the opportunity to achieve their goals.

Interpersonal conflict reveals a lack of agreement in the existing system of interaction between people. They have opposite opinions, interests, points of view on the same problems, which at the appropriate stage of the relationship disrupt regular interaction when one of the parties begins to act to the detriment of the other purposefully, and that, in turn, realizes that these actions infringe on her interests, and retaliates (Deneset al., 2020).

Distinctive features of interpersonal conflicts

Interpersonal conflicts have their distinctive features:

  1. The confrontation of people occurs directly, at this time, based on the collision of their motives; opponents come face to face.
  2. The whole spectrum of known causes is manifested: general and particular, objective and subjective.
  3. Interpersonal conflicts for the subjects of conflict interaction are a kind of ‘testing ground’ for characters, temperaments, manifestations of abilities, intelligence, and other individual psychological characteristics.
  4. Interpersonal conflicts are characterized by high emotionality and coverage of almost all aspects of relations between conflicting subjects.

It is also important to note that conflict is different from workplace bullying. Bullying is purposeful, repetitive, a regular activity designed to humiliate and cause suffering (Baillien, et al., 2017). In this way, conflict is a normal part of the group dynamics. Bullying is a developmental pathology for a group.

Management of interpersonal conflicts

Management of interpersonal conflicts can be considered in two aspects – internal and external. The internal aspect involves the use of technologies for effective communication and rational behavior in conflict. The external aspect reflects the management activity on the head (manager) or other management subjects concerning a specific conflict (Deneset al., 2020).

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In organizations, conflict manifests itself in different ways. A deeper analysis shows that such conflicts are usually based on objective reasons. It is often a struggle for limited resources: material assets, production areas, equipment usage time, labor force, etc. Everyone believes that it is he and not the other who needs the resources. Conflicts arise between a manager and a subordinate, for example, when a subordinate is convinced that the manager makes unreasonable demands on him and believes that the aid does not want to work at total capacity.

Classification of conflicts

There are four main types of conflicts: intrapersonal (a state in which a person has contradictory and mutually exclusive motives, values, and goals that he cannot cope with at the moment, cannot develop priorities for behavior), interpersonal (the result of a situation in which the needs, goals, ideas of one person come into conflict with the requirements, goals, and views of another), person-group conflict (the contradiction that arises between the individual and the social group), and intergroup conflict (a type of conflict in which the subjects of interaction are not separate individuals but groups).

  • How often do you face any type of conflict?
  • Reasons for the conflicts
  • Why do conflicts occur?

There are several main reasons for conflicts in the workplace:

Resource allocation. Even in the most influential and richest organizations, resources are always limited. The need to distribute them almost inevitably leads to conflicts. People always want to get not less but more, and their own needs always seem more justified.

Interdependence of tasks. The possibility of conflict exists wherever one person (or group) is dependent on another person (or group) to complete a task. For example, a director of a bookselling company can explain the low level of sales of books and printed products by passivity in the company’s marketing service. In turn, the marketing executive may blame the HR department for not hiring the new employees that his department needs so badly.

Differences in purpose. The likelihood of these conflicts in organizations increases as the organization grows and breaks down into specific units. For example, the sales department may insist on producing more diversified products based on demand (market needs); at the same time, production groups are interested in increasing the volume of production at minimal cost, which is ensured by the release of simple products. Individual workers are also known to pursue their own goals that do not coincide with the goals of others.

Differences in ways of achieving goals. Leaders and direct executors may have different views on the ways and means of achieving common goals, that is, in the absence of conflicting interests. Even if everyone wants to increase productivity and make work more enjoyable, people may have different ideas about doing it. The problem can be solved in different ways, and everyone believes that his solution is the best.

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Poor communications. Conflicts in organizations are very often associated with poor communication. Incomplete or inaccurate transmission of information or lack of necessary information, in general, is not only a cause but also a dysfunctional consequence of the conflict. Poor communication interferes with conflict management.

Differences in psychological characteristics are another reason for the emergence of conflicts: as already mentioned, it should not be considered the main and main one, but the role of psychological characteristics cannot be ignored either. Every average person has a certain temperament, character, needs, attitudes, habits, etc. Sometimes the psychological differences between the participants in joint activities are so significant that they interfere with its implementation, increase the likelihood of all types and types of conflicts. In this case, we can talk about psychological incompatibility.


The conflict resolution can be considered final only if the participants in the conflict situation find some solution to the problem that has become the subject of their disagreements and come to this solution as a result of the agreement. It allows counting not only on the elimination of the controversial issues separating them but also on the restoration and normalization of their relations and interaction, which could have been disrupted due to the conflict. The parties’ consent regarding a particular solution is possible only as a result of agreements, which is why negotiation strategies – regardless of whether it is about an official business situation or clarifying relations between spouses – are considered truly constructive ways to resolve interpersonal conflicts.


Baillien, E., Escartín, J., Gross, C., & Zapf, D. (2017). Towards a conceptual and empirical differentiation between workplace bullying and interpersonal conflict. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 26(6), 870-881. Web.

Denes, A., Crowley, P. J., Aloia, L., Denes, A. (Eds.). (2020). The Oxford handbook of the physiology of interpersonal communication. Oxford University Press.

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"Interpersonal Conflicts in a Workplace." BusinessEssay, 16 Sept. 2022,


BusinessEssay. (2022) 'Interpersonal Conflicts in a Workplace'. 16 September.


BusinessEssay. 2022. "Interpersonal Conflicts in a Workplace." September 16, 2022.

1. BusinessEssay. "Interpersonal Conflicts in a Workplace." September 16, 2022.


BusinessEssay. "Interpersonal Conflicts in a Workplace." September 16, 2022.