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Conflict Management at the Workplace

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Definition of Conflict

A conflict refers actual or perceived threat or opposition towards the needs, interests, values, principles, safety or concerns of an individual. Van (2009) defines conflict as a situation of dissonance or disharmony between two or more people that results from incompatibility or mismatch of ideas and interests. According to Kaye (2011), conflict is a psychic struggle that develops amongst individuals due to oppositions or unmet needs and desires. Conflicts are usually accompanied by emotional states such as annoyance, frustrations, upset, anxiety, fear and trepidation.

Conflict at the Workplace

Human resource managers in various organizations have reportedly asserted that they usually spend between thirty percent and sixty-five percent of their time handling issues related to disputes or conflicts amongst employees (McConnon & McConnon, 2008). The degree and intensity of a conflict between employees usually vary. Some conflicts may be mild while others may be violent. Violent conflicts often lead to physical confrontations and exchange of blows. According to Kaye (2011), the amount of conflicts at the workplace is usually high enough due to the increase in number of employees as an organization grows and becomes larger.

Causes of Conflicts

Conflicts at the workplace are caused by personality issues, tension, competition for organizational resources, non-compliance with rules, regulations, policies and procedures, coercion and ineffective supervision of employees, excessive workloads, doubling-up of responsibilities and authority, resistance to change and poor communication within the organization. In addition, socio-cultural differences, lack of recognition and respect amongst workers and personal problems have also been cited as the major causes of conflicts at the workplace.

Consequences of Conflicts at the Workplace

The effects of conflicts at the workplace can be broadly categorized into two; positive and negative consequences. Positive consequences include the ability of conflicts to create room for discussions and encourage dialogues, cultivation of creative and critical thinking, encourage development of improved solutions to problems and increased involvement of employees in affairs of the organization. Conflicts also lead to better understanding amongst employees within the organization. Negative consequences of conflicts include decline in production, frictional or unhealthy relationships and creation of feelings of displeasure, bitterness, hatred and anger amongst workers. These feelings often lead to physical attacks amongst the grieved parties. Conflicts also increase job insecurity, uncooperativeness and absenteeism.

Management of Conflict at the Workplace

Conflict management involves identification of various approaches to deal with conflicts at the workplace. Conflict management at the workplace entails effective use of communication skills, problem solving abilities, negotiation skills and paying attention to needs, concerns and interests of employees (Master & Albright, 2011). Conflict management usually aims at eliminating the disagreement by providing effective solutions to the underlying problems. The most common approaches to conflict management include accommodation, collaboration, compromising, avoidance and competing. The choice of the necessary approach depends on the nature of the conflict, goals of the parties involved and the perceived consequences. McConnon and McConnon (2008) also state that effective management of conflicts requires early intervention.


In my view, conflicts are part and parcel of our lives. Thus, organizations should develop and formulate appropriate techniques of preventing and solving conflicts at the workplace. Every organization faces unique conflicts; hence appropriate approaches must be developed to manage the conflicts.

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