How to Manage Workplace Conflict
By Philip Lye
Wednesday, 14th November 2007
Conflict is an inevitable part of business life and not all conflict is negative - Most people would agree that where there are people there is conflict. Some workplace conflict is healthy and if viewed positively can be an opportunity and catharsis for you and your business to effect positive change! It's all how you think about it.

However, where unhealthy conflict raises its head repeatedly this has potential risk to cause your business negative consequences. These negative consequences can have far reaching effects and added costs to your bottom line if not nipped in the bud quickly.

Common Causes of Workplace Conflict

Common causes of workplace conflict may include:

  • Poor communications
  • Mushroom effect – no one knows what's happening around here
  • Unrealistic work expectations
  • Overwork
  • Stress
  • Personality clashes (a lack of ability to get on or want to get on with people different from you)
  • Favouritism
  • Poor leadership
Communication is the glue that holds relationships together in your business. Your employees want to feel valued and know that you are interested in them. Poor communication is the number one topic raised by employees in questionnaires conducted in the workplace.

Negative stress has the power to cripple your business! Sometimes as a business owner you may allow referred stress (our personal stress) to be transferred unwittingly on your employees. This is likely to lead to your business experiencing the negative consequences of friction, decreased morale and potentially employees may undermine your business.

Personality Clashes
Personality clashes are often where one person at the workplace has an inability to get along with another colleague or simply doesn't want to! There are many reasons for this, however it is imperative that you hire the person who has the right cultural fit for your business.

Employer's Obligation
The Workplace Health and Safety Act places a legal obligation (something you must do) on employers to provide a healthy and safe workplace. This includes managing conflict which can lead in its ugliest form to workplace violence.

You can be found vicariously liable for the actions of your employees if you have been found not to have complied with your obligations.

Recruiting New Employees?
Employing someone in your business is an important decision that has future implications for your business.

The reality is that many employers hire because of qualifications rather than experience and attitude. However, it is easier to train the experience and attitude and get the qualifications than it is to get the qualifications and train the experience and attitude.

We always recommend that your business employ the best person for the role based on equal opportunity and anti-discrimination best practice. This is usually the person who has scored the best for cultural fit, and by that we mean the person who has the ‘right attitudinal fit' and experience for your business.

Many businesses have made the mistake of hiring by qualification only to have to let the attitude go at a later date!

What Can Your Business Do?
You can be proactive and manage workplace conflict by:

  • Inducting employees into the workplace
  • Implement a Grievance Policy and Procedure
  • Regular employee communications
  • If you sniff trouble, act!
  • Take advice
  • Consider mediation
Do not procrastinate
Your business may be experiencing workplace conflict but there are practical and positive solutions available to your business. You are not alone! We have assisted a number of businesses who faced potential ruin because of employee conflict and today those same businesses are thriving.

Further Information
Philip Lye is Director of Biz Momentum Pty Ltd. He works with small to medium businesses to help them cut through the maze of people matters. Clients get specific actionable strategies to protect their business interests. For more information on Philip, visit
www.biz-momentum.com  and subscribe to his free monthly e-zine.
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