Causes & Effects Of Workplace Conflict


Author: Thomas International 

Conflict. It’s a term we are familiar with as each of us has experienced it at some point in our working or personal lives. In the workplace it can be particularly difficult to overcome these challenges. If not identified timeously, conflict can be detrimental to an organisation’s culture, team cohesion and productivity. Thomas International’s Head of Psychology, Lize Van der Watt, provides insight into some of the less common causes of conflict and the ways they manifest in the workplace. This pressing issue will be explored in three phases whereby each one will provide the fundamentals for the ensuing phase.

In psychology, the word ‘conflict’ refers to opposing or incompatible actions, objectives or ideas. Conflict may arise between people, countries, and groups – or even within an individual who experiences internal conflict. “Conflict is problematic and needs to be addressed in order to have peace, productivity and harmony,” says Lize. “Studies have shown that 25% of HR professionals spend more than 10% of their time dealing with one form of conflict or another. That adds up to a loss of 23.5 productive days per year!”

What Causes Conflict?

According to Lize, there are several reasons why conflict arises in the workplace as they are well known due to their frequency. “The most common factors that contribute to conflict are differences in personality or styles of working, thus supporting a relational view of conflict. Similarly, when people perceive a threat to their needs, interests or concerns as a result of a disagreement, conflict will occur,” Lize explains. She says that other well-known causes of conflict include poor communication skills, differences in expectations and methodologies, failure to deal with conflict, dissimilarity regarding moral values, triggering of fears and negative emotions that lead to anger.

These contributing factors may be simpler to spot but Lize says that Thomas International is uniquely aware of numerous additional and covert causes. “Managers and staff need to be sensitised to lesser known causes of conflict. These include an absence of trust, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability and lack of attention to results. These factors have the potential to erupt into an argument or cause deep seated dissatisfaction with one’s job or role – both in their immediate team and in the organisation as a whole. The danger of these contributors lies in the fact that they are not familiar predictors of conflict and therefore more difficult to spot.”

Early Signs

If they know what to look for, managers, leaders and team members can predict a conflict situation. “By spotting these early indicators, conflict can be resolved before it becomes severe or even before it starts. These early indicators are inter alia lack of respect, disputes, lack of co-operation, blaming and failing to relate to each other as individuals in a healthy way.”

Sometimes though, conflict in the workplace is unavoidable or in some cases, inevitable. “Unresolved conflict can have devastating effects on individuals, the people around them and their ability to function effectively. It can also prevent us from being able to take advantage of the potential unexpected opportunities that can arise from conflict. Thomas International can assist organisations with conflict resolution to provide a tailor-made way forward that includes strategies for preventing future conflict.”

For more information and guidance on resolving workplace conflict, visit Thomas International:


About Thomas International:
Thomas International offers a broad portfolio of assessment tools that aim to provide insight into people’s potential, what motivates them, and their core strengths and limitations. In so doing, they add a high level of certainty to all people-related decisions across each stage of the employee life-cycle. Thomas International AUS has a team of administrators, psychologists and psychometrists based in Sydney to support businesses on a national level, complemented by a large support network in the United Kingdom. Thomas International is the largest privately owned global provider of people assessment tools and the only provider with bespoke education and sport divisions.

About Author

Procurement and Supply Australasia (PASA) is the leading provider of information and education to procurement and supply professionals throughout Australia and New Zealand. PASA supports the largest community of engaged procurement stakeholders in the region, through its renowned series of events, publications, awards, plus various community and network building activities. PASA is a trading name of BTTB Marketing, for many years recognised as the leading producer of conferences and events for the procurement profession in Australia and New Zealand. Whether producing under the BTTB, CIPSA Conferences or now PASA brands over the last ten years, our events have consistently led the market in terms of both educational and networking opportunities.

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