What Are The Top Causes Of Office Conflict?

Workplace Conflict

We’ve all had that moment where either you have witnessed, or been directly involved, in a conflict in the office. Whether it is over something trivial such as someone never making a round of tea or something more important involving a work error, there will be occasions where colleagues simply do not get along.

The reasons behind these conflicts can be varied though, from actual issues within the workplace to personal issues causing trouble.

A Difference In Work Causes Conflict

A new study from Cascade HR surveyed 1,000 UK adults who were in either full or part-time employment to look at what some of the top causes for conflict are. The biggest source of conflict was found to be the taking on bigger workloads or having a difference in working hours, with almost 1 in 3 (32%) reporting this as a reason for issues.

Coming in a close second was gossip or rumour at 31% and friendship groups or cliques following with 27%. This can be a particularly awkward situation to handle as it can lead to colleagues feeling ostracised, embarrassed or even bullied, resulting in resentment and negative feelings.

As well as this, managers and other colleagues could be accidentally influencing conflict as 23% of those surveyed felt that favouritism was a leading cause. It can understandably be hard to not feel slighted when it can be visibly seen that someone being treated better which can in turn lead to problems between the colleagues.

No Confidence In Employer’s Response

Some companies may have excellent responses to dealing with conflict with employees feeling confident in how their company will react. For a worryingly large number of people however, this may not be the case with just under half (49%) of those surveyed responding that their companies effectively deal with problems in the workplace.

Oliver Shaw, CEO at Cascade HR, said: “What is clear from these results is that a significant number of conflicts at work are started by colleagues feeling slighted in favour of other people. However, it’s concerning to see the number of workers who don’t feel their employer handles workplace conflict in an appropriate way.”

How To Resolve Conflict?

As well as looking into the causes of conflict, the survey also sought to find out how employees think issues could be diffused. A popular method was for higher levels of transparency in a business between the wider workforce and all levels of management. By being more open, it will allow employees to feel more comfortable with their working environment and ensure that there are no secrets kept that could cause problems.

Another simple way to help reduce the risk of conflict was found to be social events or team building activities with 23% of respondents recommending this. By engaging in these activities the camaraderie between a team will be built, opening the door for better communication and reducing the risk of resentment.

These are not the only methods to help either reduce or diffuse conflict. Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) provide excellent advice for both employees and employers. This includes encouraging managers to become more aware of any potential problems between colleagues as well as encouraging people to talk to each to try and ensure there are no misunderstandings.

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Sarah Jubb
Sarah Jubb

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