Conflict occurs within companies of all sizes for a variety of reasons. By looking at examples of the circumstances most likely to lead to interdepartmental conflict, you can take proactive steps to prevent conflict, as well as learn how to manage it effectively.
Interdepartmental conflict occurs when departmental managers engage in empire building. This happens when supervisors try to build up their teams by telling direct reports or the company owner that their department is more important than the others. By doing so, they create a culture where employees devalue and look down on what workers in other departments do. This leads to conflict brought on by a lack respect for the work of others. To prevent this type of conflict, managers should avoid putting down other departments and teach employees about their importance in the context of the overall organization.
In organizations where work is highly departmentalized, workers know little about what happens outside their own areas and don’t often interact with employees in other departments. This can keep a sense of teamwork from developing throughout the organization, leading to conflict because employees who work in this type of environment are much more concerned about what is in their own best interest rather than the company as a whole. Companies can use strategies such as cross-training and interdepartmental problem-solving committees to reduce the potential for this type of conflict.
While some competition can be healthy in the workplace, it can also be a source of destructive conflict. When departments are pitted against each other by company management, the result is a closed communication climate where employees withhold information from each other intentionally. If one department will receive recognition or compensation as a result of “beating out” another, it’s not realistic to expect effective cross-department communication and cooperation. Companies that encourage competition among departments are well served by reviewing their programs and policies to ensure that they aren’t set up in a manner that leads to destructive conflict.
When hiring, it’s important to look at more than just skills. While it is essential to hire people who have the skills necessary to perform the work, it’s also critical to hire people who exhibit personality traits that are an appropriate fit for the organization’s culture. When managers hire people without regard to whether their values and attitudes are consistent with the company’s culture, significant conflict is likely to result. The hiring process should be expanded to include efforts to determine how well suited candidates are for the organization’s culture. Strategies like behavioral interviewing and values assessments can help identify applicants who are a good fit.
By looking at examples of common problems leading to interdepartmental conflict, you can begin to take proactive steps to minimize such problems in your company.