What Are The 5 Common Types of Workplace Conflict?

Did you know that 85% of employees report dealing with some form of conflict at work? Conflict is so prevalent in the U.S. that it costs companies, on average, $359 billion annually. Learning more about preventing and resolving issues helps you avoid being a significant part of that figure. Other benefits include less stress on workers, improved performance, increased trust in the organization, and higher employee retention rates. 

Addressing disagreements in the workplace goes beyond the dollar signs, affecting employee well-being and presence. According to one report, more than 25% of people take sick leave to avoid conflict, and 58% say they resigned from the company. 

Keep reading for insight into the five conflicts that can affect your business! To learn more about conflict resolution, check out our blog on how to resolve workplace conflicts 

Type 1: Interpersonal conflict   

An interpersonal conflict is any conflict in your business between two or more employees. 

Examples of interpersonal conflict in the workplace include: 

  • Coworkers openly criticize each other for the work they do 
  • Insults are given as a result of frustrations 
  • Employers/leadership losing their tempers over mistakes 
  • Bickering and gossip 

Building and maintaining a better company culture is important. It's also helpful to integrate your company's core values into your culture and hire candidates based on their compatibility with your envisioned work environment—and as a result, your team. 

Type 2: Organizational conflict   

Organizational conflicts are those that occur between departments or teams. This is most common when different teams or departments practice poor communication, resulting in mishaps hindering assignments. It's also common for disputes to arise when there is a competitive nature dividing the two (or more), such as a competition to see who does better on a given assignment.  

To avoid friction, we recommend supplying helpful tools and resources that keep communication open and easy. It may also be beneficial to avoid competitions that label one side as 'good/winners' and the other as 'bad/losers.' If you notice these behaviors, you must address them immediately to discuss what each team needs from the other to avoid any continued problems down the road.  

Type 3: Task-related conflict   

Task-related conflicts are exactly how they sound: conflicts related to job responsibilities and tasks. Signs of this often arise in an environment where teamwork or collaboration is necessary, and the two workers are incompatible. Examples include team members 'taking sides' in a disagreement with a project, disagreements with company procedures/processes, and differing opinions on the interpretation of facts.  

To avoid task-related conflicts, you may want to consider fostering a company culture that is more understanding and accepting of the various ways assignments can be completed (as long as the results are still positive). If one worker is doing a job wrong and you notice the tension between them and a coworker, sit both parties down to discuss the right way to do the task and let someone know they're doing it wrong. Another solution would be to only partner team members with compatible employees. 

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Type 4: Interest-based conflict   

Interest-based conflicts refer to disputes that arise from competing interests. A typical example that affects employees in the same workspace is when one employee is motivated by money to complete tasks while with another employee—their passion inspires them. Conflicts can arise in this case because the more financially-motivated team member (the 'just here for the paycheck' type) may consider an assignment done. At the same time, a more passionate worker may want to continue making improvements.  

This may be another case where partnering more compatible employees with each other can be more successful. However, it's not always possible. So, if you notice signs — like apparent stress, tensions, or disagreements — sit all parties involved down to discuss the best ways to move forward without additional strain.  

Type 5: Value-based conflict   

Your value-based conflicts in the workplace arise from differences in values or beliefs. This can be significantly reduced by strengthening your company culture and hiring talent compatible with your company's merits and beliefs. That said, some examples of what these conflicts look like in action include: 

  • Clashes between coworkers over the ethical standards they expect from each other 
  • Refusal to do business with, or work alongside, another employee for reasons such as 'unsavory moral grounds' 
  • Differing work/life balance beliefs—i.e., one employee leaves on time every day, while another works overtime to complete tasks 

Suppose you notice the latter example is a prominent issue in your workplace and causes pressure for others to put in the same 'overtime' efforts. In that case, we recommend sitting employees down to discuss the importance/benefits of a healthy work/life balance.

We know that some level of conflict is unavoidable. How much strife affects your business and the amount that it hurts employees is, however. Recognizing and addressing disputes as soon as you see them arise in the workplace is crucial to the health of your company culture and how smoothly your business will run. PRO Resources is a PEO with the expertise and skill to minimize conflicts in your organization. Let’s have a conversation about how we can help you improve. 

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