Workplace conflict and the impact on your team

Workplace conflict and the impact on your team

Workplace conflict is always there, it is one of those things. A bit like lava flows beneath a volcano. Sometimes you can tell there may be an imminent eruption and other times without warning…BANG!

If you know, or, just suspect that all is not well in your workplace team dynamics what are you doing about it? Hoping and praying things don’t kick off is not a good strategy. Hearing the rumbling of discontent and doing nothing is even worse. It could be that employees come and go and never let on why they leave, thats a great head in the sand approach.

Over the last quarter of 2022 and continuing into 2023 we have received more and more enquiries about workplace conflict. On my LInkedIn feed this topic is becoming more and more common.

Those that are familiar with our approach will know that the conditions, rates of pay etc are not something we consider relevant to the topic of workplace conflict. We’re all about interpersonal dynamics.

As an employer, leader or manager how you choose to tolerate interpersonal dynamics directly impacts on any workplace conflict that you encounter.

Sources of Workplace Conflict

  • Personality Clash
  • Cliques
  • Passive Behaviours
  • Power games
workplace conflict

Personality Clash

A clash of personalities, sometimes described as a complete breakdown in communications is perhaps the most visible form of workplace conflict. A clash of personalities is seen, heard and felt by almost everyone in the vacinity. Yet, plenty of organisations will choose to tolerate this type of workplace conflict, especially if the individuals involved are perceived to have value.

All too often organisations seek to separate the clashing personalities in the hope that separation may take the energy out of the dynamic. This tends to be a big failure, all too often the clashing personalities are inevitably brought back together and it all starts again. Separation only ever results in a postponement of hostilities.

Cliques

We see cliques as an extension of a personality clash between two people.  In a clique a group of employees coalesce to create a tight bond.  The common belief being the group is ‘right’ and everyone outside the group is ‘wrong’.  At the centre of a clique is usually an individual that has managed to manipulate the group.  Identifying the unacknowledged leader is the challenge.  “I’m Spartacus!” springs to mind.  Tackling this type of workplace conflict is tricky, are you willing to let some members of the ‘clique’ leave the business, you may have to.

Passive Behaviour

We’re now getting into trickier, murkier waters. You really do have to have your ‘Poirot’ or ‘Miss Marple’ head on to identify where the issues stem from. The last three years of lockdowns and remote working has seen a rapid increase in the level of passive behaviour. We’re talking passive aggressive and also passive avoidance behaviours. If you’re not familiar with non-assertive communication patterns you’ve really no hope with this sort of workplace conflict.

Power Games

Just who is pulling the strings?  We will guarantee that the employees at the sharp end of a conflict will not be the drivers of that conflict.  Organisational power merchants will set up situations and send their ‘players’ into action.  Safe in the knowledge that their involvement is cloaked from all to see.  These characters are the archetypal ‘Jeckyl & Hyde’.  Praised and endorsed by their peers and, yet at the same time, pulling the strings of workplace conflict.

Resolving Workplace Conflict

Placing a sticking plaster over an open wound rarely ever works. We all know this to be true, don’t we?  Especially, if you didn’t clean the wound before putting a plaster over it!

The more you attempt to put a plaster on something that is not healing the more infected it becomes and then drastic action is required.

Organisations tend to want a quick fix when it comes to resolving conflict and then wonder why the same stuff keeps happening, only it seems worse the next time.  Some say that is short term thinking, we say it is delusional!

Workplace conflict is always there, the very first words in this post. There will never be a time when there is no conflict in your business. Whenever there is a group of people you will always have conflict.

The long term successful approach is to switch the perception of conflict away from some sort of ‘toxic’ bacteria that needs to be avoided at all costs. Viewing conflict as a positive means to drive constructive dialogue and collaboration is the key. Sadly, most organisations simply want the sticking plaster and achieve a toxic culture as a result.

The most successful organisations work hard to transform the interpersonal dynamics of their employees towards proactive and collaborative communication.

Workplace Conflict Resolution with Seek First Ltd

Our approach at Seek First Ltd is to develop the dynamics between your employees so that they can all engage in constructive dialogue. This approach may cost more in the short term and, yet, you will see massive long term benefits.

Which would you prefer? High employee turnover, rocketing recruitment costs, tumbling productivity and collapsing reputations or being viewed as the employer of choice, high retention, attracting the best talent and soaring team performance and productivity?

It is all about how you deal with workplace conflict. The choice is yours.