Business Category Business: career motivation and tips to move ahead

Definition of Conflict in the Workplace

Conflict in the workplace makes life at a job difficult for employees. Workplace conflict is a specific type of disagreement that occurs in a work area, such as an office, and is uniquely influenced by the work environment. Contention in the workplace can be hidden for a period of time before a majority of staff becomes aware of the issue.


Conflict in the workplace can arise from personal disagreements. Personal conflicts occur due to a clash of ideas, values or needs between two or more coworkers. Different ideas about the work being performed can also cause a personal conflict between employees. Additionally, a romantic relationship between two employees can contribute to personal conflict, especially if the relationship does not end well.

Management conflict occurs when a problem develops between workers and the management structure or directives. Conflict can arise between members of the management team if their leadership styles are contradictory.


Conflict between staff members can reduce overall productivity, as conflict often causes a breakdown in communication. Contention among workers that is prolonged or volatile can begin to affect the entire staff, due to the tension and uncomfortable situations the conflict creates. The quality of work being produced can be negatively impacted by a contentious work environment because the staff members are not working effectively as a team.

Disagreements within the management team can result in contradictory directions and a lack of authoritative decision-making. A company with a conflict within management faces a host of problems, such as a frustrated staff due to irregular policies and a perceived loss of control over the staff.


Conflict can lead to a necessary change in the workplace. Company policies that are unclear can be clarified if a disagreement arises about the rules. Regulations that some members of the staff view as unfair can be addressed to raise overall workplace morale.

Contention in the workplace can also expose a worker or manager who is not recognising the needs of the team or performing his job properly. The supervising team can then take action against the employee to resolve the situation.


Conflicts in the workplace should be addressed as soon as the issue is brought to the attention of the management staff. Unresolved conflict can spread throughout the entire staff and create a hostile work environment, as employees may begin "taking sides" in the disagreement. The bigger the conflict becomes, the harder the situation is to resolve.

One common way to approach a work conflict is for the immediate supervisor of the involved employees to hold a mediation. Each employee is allowed to air personal concerns, and the supervisor then works with each staff member to solve the problem. In a typical mediation, every staff member is expected to adhere to the terms of the resolution or face disciplinary action.


Conflicts in the workplace can be caused by a basic clash of personality between two workers. Workers with very different personal values can experience difficulty when working in close proximity. Clash of personality conflicts do not always have an immediate solution and can require further intervention by the supervisor.

Contention can arise between entire departments, as opposed to members of the same team. Departments that are independent in basic function but dependent on each other to complete an assignment can experience difficulties. Each department may view the overall project goal differently, causing a breakdown in communication.