Conflict at work, effects of conflict

Managing conflict at work can be a challenge. When a dispute between employees becomes visible it usually falls to a manager to intervene and do something about it.

Unfortunately, managers are not generally confident in doing this and so they’ll often ignore the conflict in the hope that it’ll go away, downplay the seriousness of the disagreement, or approach it ineffectively. A report by OPP says 68% of managers are inadequately trained in dealing with disputes (see below).

Unresolved conflict at work affects far more than the people involved in the dispute. The effects ripple out and impact on other staff and even customers and service users. According to OPP’s study “personality clashes and warring egos” are a primary cause of conflict, but a range of other factors also cause disagreements and long-running standoffs that quickly begin to erode morale and diminish performance.

Wider effects

Nobody likes a bad atmosphere so even people not directly involved in the dispute will feel its effects. For example, I was working with a public sector team some months ago where a key member of the group openly announced that he would be giving his notice because he could no longer stand being in the office “because of the tension in the air” caused by the long-running conflict between two of his colleagues.

Conflict can be productive or at least not destructive if handled early and with confidence. Research also showed that 95% of people receiving conflict management training say that it helped them in some way. Training need not be expensive, there are several different training formats, but even where an external provider is not an option, employers can do a lot themselves.

Dispute management

I offer a free service to discuss how best to approach this, and Managing Conflict at Work, a guide produced by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD, see below), identifies the behaviours that will help recognise and proactively manage disputes at work. It is designed to help equip line managers with the skills and confidence to intervene at an early stage in disputes at work, before they escalate to the point where a formal disciplinary or grievance procedure has to be used.

The skills that staff and managers pick up during conflict management training affect awareness and behaviour more widely. They are not just restricted to handling disputes but also have a positive influence on workplace relationships more widely.

If you’d like to discuss online Conflict Management training for staff, contact me and we’ll set up a call.

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Download the CIPD Guide Managing Conflict at Work.

Read about the cost of poor conflict management skills at work.

I’m a psychologist, coach, and therapist. All my work is aimed at enabling people to improve personal aspects of their lives and work.