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8 Conflict Triggers And How To Deal With It In The Workplace

Introduction


Conflict in the workplace can erode morale, decrease productivity and create a toxic environment. Understanding what triggers conflict is crucial for creating a harmonious and efficient workplace. Here are practical ways to apply the tips for addressing common conflict triggers.


 

 Trigger 1: Poor Communication


1.1  Communication is the bedrock of any successful organisation. When it falters, misunderstandings and conflicts arise. Miscommunication can stem from unclear instructions, lack of feedback or even misinterpretation of tone. For instance, an email intended to be straightforward may come across as curt, leading to unnecessary tension.

 

1.2  Example: Imagine a project manager sends out an email with a brief update: "Need the report by the end of today. " The recipients might interpret this as abrupt and demanding, causing frustration. However, if the email had included context, "Hi team, we need the report by the end of the day to finalise our presentation for tomorrow. Thanks for your hard work!" the message would likely be received more positively.

 

1.3 Tips for Improvement:


  • Practice active listening:

  • Application: During meetings, use techniques like summarising what the speaker said before responding, ask clarifying questions and give your full attention without interrupting. Inspire your employees to emulate this behaviour by modelling it themselves, while additionally offering group and individual coaching sessions to enhance their active listening abilities.


  • Ensure messages are clear and concise:

  • Application: Use templates for common communications to ensure all necessary information is included. Encourage a culture of over-communication rather than under-communication, especially when giving instructions. Implement a company-wide standard for email communication that includes providing context, stating the purpose clearly, and specifying the required actions.

  • Establish feedback loops:

  • Application: Create opportunities for employees to ask questions and provide feedback through regular check-ins, suggestion boxes or team debriefs. Use project management tools that allow team members to comment and ask questions in real-time about tasks and assignments.


 

Trigger 2: Differing Values and Beliefs 


2.1 In a diverse workplace, differing values and beliefs are inevitable. These differences can become a source of conflict if not managed properly. Cultural differences, varying work ethics and personal values often clash. This creates friction among team members.

 

2.2 Example: A team composed of members from different cultural and industry backgrounds might have different approaches to hierarchy and authority. In some cultures and industries, questioning a manager might be seen as disrespectful, while in others, open dialogue and challenging ideas are encouraged. This can lead to misunderstanding and conflict, as some team members may feel ignored or undervalued while others may feel stifled.

 

2.3 Tips for Improvement:


  • Foster an inclusive environment:

  • Application: Organise cultural competence workshops and celebrate cultural events within the workplace. Create diversity and inclusion committees that represent various cultures and viewpoints within the company.


  • Encourage open dialogue:

  • Application: Implement regular team meetings where team members can discuss their values and beliefs and how they impact their work. Use mediation sessions with a neutral facilitator for more challenging discussions.

  • Promote respect and empathy:

  • Application: Engage a coach on empathy and emotional intelligence. Create policies that mandate respectful communication and behaviour. Encourage mentorship programs where employees can learn about different perspectives and backgrounds.


 

Trigger 3: Competition and Ambition


3.1 Healthy competition can drive performance, but it can also lead to conflict if it spirals out of control. When team members vie for promotions, recognition or resources, rivalry can turn toxic, disrupting the workplace harmony.


3.2 Example: Two employees might be competing for the same promotion. If one starts undermining the other or taking credit for shared work, it can create a hostile atmosphere and damage teamwork.

 

3.3 Tips for Improvement:


  • Set clear and fair goals:

  • Application: Define and communicate clear performance metrics and promotion criteria. Use objective measures for evaluations and ensure transparency in the decision-making process.

  • Implement recognition systems:

  • Application: Develop a reward system that recognises both individual and team achievements. Use peer-nominated awards to celebrate collaborative efforts and create a balance between individual accolades and team-based rewards.

  • Emphasise collaboration over competition:

  • Application: Organise team-based projects where success depends on collaboration. Introduce team-building activities that focus on cooperation and mutual support. Foster a culture where knowledge sharing and teamwork are valued.


 

 Trigger 4: Personality Clashes


4.1 We all have different personalities and sometimes these differences can cause friction. An introverted team member might find an extroverted colleague overwhelming, or an assertive person might clash with a more passive individual.

 

4.2 Example: A highly assertive team member may dominate meetings, leaving quieter colleagues feeling undervalued and frustrated. This can lead to resentment and reduced collaboration.

 

4.3 Tips for Improvement:


  • Use personality assessments:

  • Application: Implement personality assessments like Myers-Briggs or DISC to understand team dynamics better. Share the results with the team and use them to discuss how different personalities can complement each other.

  • Organise team-building programs:

  • Application: Conduct regular team-building or team coaching sessions that are designed to improve trust and understanding among team members. Use activities that require cooperation and communication, such as problem-solving tasks and role-playing scenarios.

  • Encourage respect for communication styles:

  • Application: Seek coaching services on different communication styles and how to adapt to them. Create guidelines that encourage inclusive communication, ensuring all voices are heard during meetings and discussions.

 

 

Trigger 5: Workload and Stress


5.1 Excessive workload and stress are significant contributors to workplace conflict. Tight deadlines, high expectations and burnout can make even the most patient employees irritable and prone to conflict.

 

5.2 Example: During a high-pressure project, one employee might snap at a colleague over a minor mistake, not because the error was severe, but because of their own stress and fatigue.

 

5.3 Tips for Improvement:


  • Manage workloads effectively:

  • Application: Use project management tools to evenly distribute tasks and monitor workloads. Set realistic deadlines and prioritise tasks to ensure employees are not overburdened.

  • Implement stress reduction programs:

  • Application: Offer wellness programs that include access to mental health resources, mindfulness training and stress management workshops. Provide facilities for relaxation, such as quiet rooms or meditation spaces.

  • Set realistic expectations:

  • Application: Regularly review workloads and adjust expectations based on current capacity and resources. Communicate openly about the pressures of high-demand periods and provide support where needed, such as additional temporary staffing or flexible work hours.


 

 

Trigger 6: Role Ambiguity


6.1 Unclear job roles and responsibilities can create confusion and conflict. When duties overlap or aren't well defined, it’s easy for conflicts to arise over who should do what.

 

6.2 Example: Two team members might be unsure who is responsible for a particular task, leading to both doing it (duplicating effort) or neither (leaving it undone), causing frustration and conflict.

 

6.3 Tips for Improvement:


  • Job descriptions have become live documents that change with the volatile world:

  • Application: Write and regularly update job descriptions that clearly outline each role's responsibilities and expectations. Ensure these descriptions are accessible to all employees.

  • Regularly review and update roles:

  • Application: Conduct regular reviews to ensure roles and responsibilities remain relevant and clear. Use performance reviews and one-on-one meetings to discuss any role-related issues and make necessary adjustments.

  • Ensure role clarity:

  • Application: During team meetings, clarify who is responsible for what, especially for overlapping duties. Use project charters or responsibility assignment matrices (RACI) to define roles clearly in projects.


 

 Trigger 7: Power Dynamics


7.1 Hierarchical structures and power struggles can trigger conflicts. Issues like micromanagement, favouritism and misuse of authority can create resentment and discord within a team.

 

7.2 Example: A manager who consistently favours one team member over others can breed resentment and conflict among the rest of the team, who feel their contributions are undervalued.

 

7.3 Tips for Improvement:


  • Promote transparent and fair leadership practices:

  • Application: Facilitate transformative leadership coaching on power relations and leadership best practices. Consistently implement fairness and transparency. Implement regular 360-degree feedback processes to identify and address favouritism or bias.

  • Develop equitable policies:

  • Application: Create clear, documented policies on performance reviews, promotions, and rewards that apply to all employees equally. Ensure these policies are communicated and adhered to consistently.

  • Empower employees:

  • Application: Engage a team coach to strengthen employee ownership of goals, actions, outcomes and team performance. Provide opportunities for employees to take on leadership roles in projects. Encourage decision-making at all levels and create forums for employees to voice their ideas and concerns.

 

 

Trigger 8: Change and Uncertainty


8.1 Organisational changes, such as mergers, restructuring or policy changes, can be unsettling. The uncertainty that accompanies change often leads to conflict as employees feel insecure about their roles and future.

 

8.2 Example: During a company restructuring, unclear communication about new roles and expectations can lead to confusion and anxiety, sparking conflicts as employees struggle to adapt.


8.3 Tips for Improvement:


  • Implement effective change management strategies:

  • Application: Use a structured change management approach to guide employees through transitions. Assign change champions to support and communicate with their peers.

  • Communicate clearly and regularly:

  • Application: Provide regular updates on changes through multiple channels, such as town hall meetings, emails, and newsletters. Use clear and transparent language to explain the reasons for changes and their expected impact.

  • Provide support and reassurance:

  • Application: Offer support through life and career coaching services, employee assistance programs and change management workshops. Create forums where employees can ask questions and express concerns.


 

 Conclusion


By recognising and addressing these common conflict triggers, you can foster a more harmonious and productive workplace. Proactive conflict management not only improves morale but also enhances overall organisational performance.


If you’re looking to build a more cohesive and resilient team, consider investing in leadership and team coaching. As a transformative leadership and team coach, I can help you develop strategies to reduce conflict and create a positive workplace culture. Contact me today to learn more about our coaching services and how we can help your team thrive.


Contact details for Arnold Shkaidy, Transformative Leadership and Team Coach
Arnold Shkaidy offers Transformative Coaching

 

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