Conflict: It’s Not What You Say

10 October 2023

Conflict is a natural part of life and the workplace is no exception. In fact, studies have shown that up to 85% of employees experience conflict at work at some point in their careers. Whilst some conflict can be healthy and productive, it can also be costly, both in human and business terms.

Human cost

Conflict at work can have a significant impact on employee morale, well-being and productivity. It can lead to stress, anxiety, depression and even physical health problems. Conflict can also damage relationships between colleagues and managers and make it difficult for teams to work together effectively.

Business cost

As well as the human cost, conflict at work can also have a negative impact on businesses. It can lead to lower productivity, slower problem resolution, increased costs and high resource turnover. Conflict can also damage a company’s reputation and make it difficult to attract and retain top talent.

Clumsy Communication

More often than not, conflict can be avoided just by being aware of how we communicate with others. Most people don’t usually set out to cause offence or to start an argument. It is usually the product of clumsy communication.

Intent: A manager wants to give their employee feedback on a project. They intend to be constructive, but they end up coming across as harsh and critical.

Impact: The employee feels attacked and humiliated. They become defensive and withdraw from the manager. Their productivity and morale suffer.

Self Awareness & Listening with Empathy

Self-awareness and listening with empathy are key skills that can help us to manage situations more effectively. Self-awareness is the ability to understand our own emotions, thoughts and behaviours. Listening with empathy is about hearing what the other person is saying, being curious to understand and share the feelings of others.

When we are self-aware, we are better able to identify our own triggers and hot buttons. This can help us to avoid saying or doing things that we will later regret. Listening with empathy can help us to see things from the other person’s perspective and to understand why they may be feeling the way they are.

What You Can Do

Tips for managing conflict at work

  1. Be self-aware. Identify your own triggers and hot buttons.
  2. Be empathetic. Try to see things from the other person’s perspective.
  3. Communicate effectively. Use active listening and assertive communication skills.

Seek help if it’s needed, either through your HR department, your colleagues or a professional coach. If you are struggling to manage conflict on your own, there will be people that can help you.

By following these tips, you can reduce the negative impact of conflict at work and create a more positive and productive work environment.