You don’t need to be a PhD candidate, or an organisational psychologist to know that workplace conflict will have a detrimental impact on your business.

There are the obvious, more immediate impacts like:

  • Back chatting;
  • Excessive eye-rolling; and
  • Negative and walking-on-eggshells culture.

Which in turn, lead to bigger problems like:

  • Unwanted turnover;
  • Poor employer reputation; and ultimately;
  • Reduced profits.

But there is more to workplace conflict than this list of downers. A more significant cost is that conflict is hugely inefficient. It has an impact on how long tasks take, and sucks up valuable time with management needing to mediate awkward conversations and/or being pulled into unnecessary non-value-add meetings.

What does this do?

Ultimately, it’s a distraction! It takes focus away from creativity, innovation and most importantly, high performance. When you think about the world’s most successful companies (the BIG brand names like Apple, Microsoft, and Google), you know that they continue to be successful because they are constantly leading the way with new products and services, staying ahead of their competitors. Now I’m not saying there’s no conflict in these organisations and they have their fair share of drama, but clearly, whatever conflict is happening is being dealt, with so that it does not detract from focused work and innovation.  

Anecdotally I see this in my own consulting practice. Businesses stuck in the dramas of conflict may be performing ok – but this is largely due to capable individuals within the team and organisation. What they’re not doing is living up to their fullest potential. They’re not innovating and pushing new ideas ahead, testing them, and seeing a fuller realisation of their organisation’s vision.

How can we minimise conflict?

Like everything in business, there are many different theories and approaches to managing conflict. Here at The People Place, we like to take a very practical approach.

We look at the conflict through two pillars: task cohesion and social cohesion. There is no point just treating the symptoms of conflict and stopping there. We highly recommend taking the time to identify the root cause of conflict: Where is it coming from? How long has it been there? Where is there a lack of clarity?

Task cohesion

From our experience, the root of conflict often comes from a lack of clarity in business vision, strategy and goal alignment. This paucity then filters down into the organisation design, team structure, reporting lines, meetings and team norms, delegated authority, and roles and responsibilities. When your staff do not have a good grasp on these these key structures, they will go off on tangents, hold conflicting priorities and will simply not be rowing in the same direction.

Social cohesion

Conflict can also arise from a lack of ‘interpersonal connection’ capability. This can take the form of employees lacking the self-awareness to know how they impact others around them, or the team environment not creating the space its members need, to build trust.

I’m a firm believer that people don’t wake up with the intent to be a jerk, or to annoy their co-workers. These things happen when there is a lack of accountability, and lack of focus on social and task cohesion.

So what can we do about this?

There are models and frameworks till the end of time to address these two things!  Yet it doesn’t need to be complicated. Here are a few simple things you can do to get started:

  • Introduce an annual self-awareness rhythm using a personality profiling tool, debriefing each others profiles together
  • Commit to, and hold, quarterly team lunches.
  • Introduce a daily (quick) check in between leaders and their team members.
  • Introduce an above and below the line behaviour framework, and team scorecard.
  • Introduce a 12 month (could be 6 or 18 months depending on industry) mission focus for each team.
  • Introduce a team meeting agenda with follow up action points that are reviewed at the next team meeting.

Give these things a go, and you will see a reduction in workplace conflict.

Here are some links to frameworks that can help you wrap your head around this topic further:

At this point it should be said, no matter how much of a focus and positive intent you hold to reduce conflict, nor no matter how properly you set up your organisational systems and teams to improve task and social cohesion, there will always be some conflict. We’re human, and thus, not perfect! It’s inevitable that on occasion, our emotions will get the better of us, and in these situations the best thing to do is own it, and apologise.  

Remember, the biggest impact that conflict has on an organisation is slowing or stifling its ability to innovate and develop new product and service offerings. In the short term its profit that suffers, and in the long term, it’s survival.

With this in mind, we strongly encourage you to pause, and ask yourself this very simple question:

Do I have an intentional approach to building a positive and high performing workplace culture?

If you can’t honestly say yes, then let’s talk.

Give me a call if you want to confidentially discuss conflict in your workplace and how we can work to resolve it, phone +64 9 300 7224 or email