Workplace conflict and how this might affect growth – Work culture series

No two individuals think or act the same way, and so when you have more than one person working on a shared vision, conflict becomes inevitable. It could be subtle or very obvious, depending on how the parties choose to express themselves. Employees naturally have different backgrounds and priorities, and when they run into conflicts, they may express themselves in ways like insults, non-cooperation, bullying, anger, or general resentment.

Now, we are not talking about conflict with customers or clients here, but conflicts between leaders and employees, team members, and the likes. Such conflicts may result from personality clashes, misunderstood communication to organizational mismanagement. And when not managed properly, it could cause a toxic and emotionally draining work environment resulting in decreased productivity, work disruptions, project failure, absenteeism, high staff turnover, and termination.

A typical example of conflict resulting from personality differences could be when two very different persons share a desk or an office cubicle. Mr. A likes to work in a quiet environment with no external input or direction. He abhors even the sound of music or any idle chitchat. Unfortunately, he shares a cubicle with Miss B who thinks work is more fun with some music blaring, and some fun chat along the way. Chances are that one person might have to silently tolerate the other, while silently brooding over it. This could cause some form of resentment over time.

Another scenario could be with people working on interdependent projects. Miss Cee loves to work under pressure, and so leaves the bulk of her tasks till the last hour and then starts running around trying to balance the scales. Unfortunately, Mr. Z has his entire job hinged on hers, and so he never gets to work on anything until she is done with it. With her penchant for a last-minute rush, Mr. Z has to continually battle with headaches, and late-night work trying to beat a deadline that was delayed just because Miss Cee wanted it so. He is now being negatively affected by her work behavior and over time, could spill out some anger, especially if he gets fined for turning in tasks late.

It goes without saying that conflicts of different kinds of gravity could adversely affect the quality and speed of projects delivered. Work styles, leadership styles, and personalities will always differ. There will be leaders who like to micro-manage staff and there will be staff who would rather work without constant interference. There will be late-hour workers and those who like to knock their tasks out early. Some of the more serious conflicts occur when there is harassment, discrimination, or intimidation going on due to age, race, ethnicity, gender, or any other reason.

For the most part, employees can sort out the conflict themselves. However, there is a need for the company to explicitly emphasize open-mindedness, acceptance, and understanding. It is part of building the work culture too. If the leaders throw jibes and use derogatory terms on the employees, then you could also see employees use it among themselves. But where management has shown itself to be open-minded, tolerant, and understanding, employees are naturally compelled to do the same.

As a tech entrepreneur, there is a kind of conflict you will almost certainly, if not severally, encounter – Conflict in creative or intellectual ideas. If two individuals disagree on a project idea, about what, how, and when it should be done, it is a sensitive area. First of all, keep in mind that out rightly discarding any idea (however stupid it might sound) is not a good idea. It can stifle productivity and creativity as you go forward. You need your employees to know that their voices and opinions are recognized.

One good tactic I recommend here is collaboration. You can get the conflicting parties to collaborate and brainstorm together on the project and piece the best parts together for a stunning solution. They could also look for compromise so both ideas can shine through while producing an even better outcome spawning from the collaboration. If needed, they could approach another colleague or a higher-up to mediate the discussion or offer their opinion on the final decision.

We learn and grow through competition and collaboration when handled properly in conflict situations.

Developing effective conflict resolution skill sets is key to building a sustainable business model. It is a skill that equals that of good employee retention because if you fail to deal with the conflicts or act like they don’t exist, you will eventually watch your good talent walk out the door in search of a healthier and safer work environment.

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The Entrepreneur’s Diary

 Par Samuel Ajiboyede

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