Managing Conflicts in a Workplace

Published 13 Dec 2016

The word conflict is not spelled as complicated as its meaning implies. When it is doubled or pluralized, the process is not also problematic as it would only require an additional letter ‘s’ at its end. It is very opposite to the real scenario it brings. As a conflict continues to progress, the degree of its difficulty and complexity increases.

While few of us are contented ignoring to solve various conflicts, most people find it hard to live their lives without resolving some of the conflicts that they have. These conflicts can be associated to their family, friends, co- workers, or even to their own selves. No matter who or what is that they do not find themselves in good terms with, most people would want to resolve their conflicts for the mere fact that they do not feel comfortable having those in their lives. However, are all conflicts resolvable?

It is possible that all conflicts are not resolvable. However, one can have the options to try solving them through steps that may at least lessen the degree of the conflict’s difficulty and complexity. However, as long as a person tries, all conflicts are possible to resolve. That is why it is essential to generate conflict resolution processes. How can conflicts be effectively resolved?

Instituting a Conflict Resolution Process

According to Dudley Weeks, author of the book The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution, one of the most important or key things to consider when resolving a conflict is “to understand the positive situation that awaits in all situations of discord” (p.7). This means that we should change our notions about conflict. This will further our understanding why conflicts happen and why does people sometime clash. With this kind of thinking, people will gain open- mindedness towards people and their selves—an essential characteristic to prevent all kinds of conflict.

However, other people have a different and opposite view regarding conflict resolution. In Daniel Dana’s Conflict Resolution, humans are compared to animals which use power in solving conflicts with other animals. The more powerful person is, the easier it is to resolve his conflicts with others. Dana also mentioned about rights contests where a person uses his rights over things in resolving his issues with other people. However, both of these resolutions do not require mutual benefits for both parties. The process is therefore not healthy. To prevent this, Dana mentioned the importance of the third means in resolving conflicts– interests’ reconciliation (p.41). Here, both parties will both benefit.

Why is it important to resolve conflicts? As mentioned earlier, solving conflicts is a way of people to live their lives peacefully. Again, according to Dana, conflicts are not just mere irritation. For example, conflicts in a workplace sometimes may cost lots of money. This includes costs in terms of “ wasted time, bad decisions, lost employees, sabotage, theft, damage, lowered job motivation, lost work time, health costs, and legal expenses ” (p. 37)

With these wonderful ways and reasons that can lead a person to resolve his conflicts, what might be the factors that can affect the irresolution of a specific conflict?

A person’s tendencies when place in the middle of a disagreement can be pointed as one of the factors that might affect the resolution of a specific conflict. Dana mentioned that people have two tendencies when being confronted with conflicts: either they ‘flight’ or they ‘fight’. In ‘flight’, a person tends to distance and walk- away from the person or situation that they have conflicts with. In one hand, he may also do the ‘fight’ wherein he may do some coercions and power plays. Nonetheless, these two human tendencies can be prevented.

Moreover, conflicts cannot be resolved if in the first place, they are not desired to be resolved. Take for example the conflicts in the Middle East. In an article written by Joel Bainerman entitled Why the Middle East Conflict Continues to Exist, the author said that the conflict continues to exist due to the desire of “foreign elements” not to resolve the issue. It is because these parties gain their political and economic interests through the continuation of the dispute for decades.

Hence, cultural differences play a vital role in the issue of solving conflicts. One should be considerate in the discrepancies among cultures, open in the possibilities of clashing ideas, and respectful to the opposite views of others in order for disputes and conflicts be avoided.

Identifying and Preventing Causes of Conflict in the Workplace

The most common sites of conflicts cannot only be found in our homes or in countries engaged in war. The most simple and obvious site where conflicts can be seen is in one’s workplace. Here, various people with various and opposing objectives, views, and philosophy are able to meet and work together everyday. It is therefore clear that workplaces have higher tendencies and instances of conflicts among people and companies.

With these, it is thus important to define and to describe what kind of conflicts occurs most commonly in workplaces. According to Marick Francis in his book The Complete Guide to Conflict Resolution in the Workplace, conflicts “ can take—personally, professionally, and organizationally. They can be directed towards a superior, a subordinate, a colleague, or a client/ customer ” (p. 11).

In an online article of the Boston University, nine signs of conflicts in workplaces were listed. This includes negative attitudes, frequent occurrences of unsolved misunderstandings and arguments, low morale of employees, dislike of people to come into work, workers’ feeling of making no contribution, workers’ feeling that their work is not being given value or respect, feeling of danger, talking about people behind their backs, and high tension rate.

According to the book Organizational behavior: The State of the Science, there are two common causes of conflict that may arise from a workplace: substantive or affective. In substantive conflict, the worker is confronted with disagreements in terms of responsibilities, opinions, objectives, and procedures. One example is the disagreement of a boss and a worker in the rule of absences and working time. In one hand, affective conflict is “ based on negative emotions as anger, fear, and distrust ” (p. 144). An example of this is taking personally and negatively the criticism that a co- worker gave.

One should not wait for conflicts to happen first before he makes a move about it. Therefore, prevention of conflicts in a workplace is a necessary action that all workers should take into consideration. To prevent the instances of conflicts, Robert Bacal said it is important that most conflicts should not always be treated negatively. According to him, some work conflicts are destructive, but some are also constructive. It is the destructive conflicts that one should avoid for here, only personal disagreements occur. In contrast with this, constructive conflicts may help the people to “ grow, learn and be more productive and satisfied in the workplace ” (p. 11).

In relation to this, a worker should not only know how to prevent work conflicts. He must be also knowledgeable and ready when are those conflicts going to happen. Being ready is also one of the things that he can do in order to prevent and avoid disagreements in work. Thus, it is essential that everyone identifies and acknowledges the role of conflicts in his life. While some might help him in his own development, some conflicts are still better to be addressed as soon as possible in order to prevent further damages and complications. The best author of this custom paper written on site EssayLab.


  • Bacal, R. (1998). Conflict Prevention in the Workplace: Using Cooperative Communication. New York: Bacal and Associates
  • Dana, D. (2000).Conflict Resolution. US: McGraw-Hill Professional
  • Francis, M. (2002). The Complete Guide to Conflict Resolution in the Workplace. New York: AMACOM p American Mgmt Assn
  • Greenberg, J. (1994). Organizational behavior: The State of the Science. US: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates
  • Weeks, D. (1994). The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution. New York: J.P. Tarcher/Perigee
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