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When groups of people work together, conflict is inevitable. Generally, conflict in any organization is uncomfortable, time consuming and counterproductive. It can lower productivity in the workplace, and if left unchecked, it will get worse. There are several causes or workplace conflict, some more common than others, but once identified, these issues can be addressed to reduce conflict. In the end, managing organizational conflict will improve morale and workplace productivity.
Miscommunications are a frequent source of organizational conflict. Often, misunderstandings are caused by rumors that are left unchecked. To address this issue, managers should regularly communicate organizational status and any changes well in advance. This will slow down the "rumor mill" and reduce misunderstandings.
Lack of Role Definition
Conflict can occur when employees don't understand their role or job functions. Uncertainty about "who does what" can lead co-workers to feel they are working disproportionately harder than others. It can also lead to "turf wars" where an employee perceives a co-worker is infringing upon their duties. Clearly defining roles and responsibilities within the organization can reduce this type of conflict.
Everyone has different personalities and styles in approaching work. Co-workers with a high variance in these areas can have strained relations. It's important for managers to help supervisors break down problems to the fundamental issues and steer clear of issues of personality. This is one of the most difficult sources of organizational conflicts to remedy, as personalities are hard to change. It may take intensive problem solving and conflict-resolution training for co-workers with personality differences to overcome this issue and work cooperatively together.
Noncompliance With Workplace Policies
Policies and procedures in a workplace bring order and improve efficiency. In a lax policy environment, employees usually don't perform to management's expectations. It can also lead to safety issues. Conflict can occur between co-workers or with management when an employee deviates from required policies, procedures or work rules. It's important for supervisors to monitor policy compliance and take corrective action in the early stages of noncompliance.
Leadership problems are a common source of conflict. They can include avoiding conflict instead of addressing problems with subordinates. This allows conflict to fester. In other instances, supervisors may "play favorites" with some employees. This can make it difficult to rally the help of subordinates in times of need. Inconsistency in decision making can also cause problems, such as confusion about expectations and organizational direction. It's important for managers and supervisors to show consistent leadership and treat each employee fairly.
Mark L. Ryckman has more than 20 years of senior management and leadership experience. He provides a wide variety of consulting services through MLR Management, LLC. Ryckman holds a Bachelor of Arts in public management and a Master of Public Administration, both from the University of Maine.