Workplace conflict is a fact of life - it's how you deal with it that counts

Interpersonal conflict can have both positive and negative outcomes. On one hand, conflict can lead to greater creativity, improved communication, and a better understanding of each other's perspectives. On the other hand, it can also lead to stress, anger, and a breakdown in relationships if not addressed effectively. It is important to learn effective conflict resolution skills to navigate interpersonal conflict and promote healthy relationships.

What is interpersonal conflict?

Interpersonal conflicts arise when two or more people disagree on things like goals, values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. So, how do you manage interpersonal conflict, and what can be learned from it?

Types of interpersonal conflict

Let's talk about seven types of interpersonal conflict:

Power conflict

This type of conflict arises when two or more individuals have different ideas about who should have control or influence over a situation or decision. Power conflicts can arise when there's a perceived imbalance in power or authority, when one person or group seeks to control or dominate another, or when there are competing interests or goals that require negotiation or compromise. Power conflicts can be overt or covert, ranging from open confrontation to subtle manipulation or coercion.

Value conflict

When different perspectives surrounding ethics, religion, politics, or cultural norms occur, then you have a value conflict. These conflicts present unique challenges because they involve deeply held beliefs and values central to a person's identity. Value conflicts can occur at various levels, such as personal, social, or cultural. For example, a personal value conflict can arise when an individual holds the belief that honesty is always the best policy, while another individual believes that lying is acceptable in certain situations. 

Economic conflict

There may be an instance where different interests compete for limited resources. This is called economic conflict and can rear its ugly head when there's a job promotion coming up, or if resources are scarce for current or upcoming projects. It can be seen on the international front in the way of trade disputes, or can hit closer to home when companies compete for market share. 

Economic conflict is a complex issue that can have far-reaching consequences for individuals, businesses, and countries. Resolving economic conflict often requires a combination of negotiation, compromise, and cooperation.

Personality conflict

This type of conflict occurs when individuals have different personality traits, styles, or behaviors that clash. Personality conflicts can arise when people have different communication styles, such as one person being direct and assertive while another person is more indirect and passive. Other examples of personality conflicts include disputes about time management, decision-making, or leadership styles. Similarly, conflicts can arise between individuals with different working styles, such as when one person is organized and detail-oriented while the other is more spontaneous and creative.

Informational conflict

Disagreements over project timelines, budget forecasts, or market trends make up the bulk of informational conflicts. Ultimately, it's about individuals having different information, data, or perceptions about a situation or decision. Conflict can occur even if the information or data is an opinion or perspective. 

Informational conflicts often involve debates, arguments, or discussions to persuade others to adopt a particular point of view. While informational conflict can be a constructive process that leads to new insights and ideas, it can also be a destructive process that leads to polarization and mistrust.

Goal conflict

A goal conflict refers to a situation where an individual or organization has two or more goals that are incompatible with each other or require different actions to achieve. In other words, a person or entity has to choose between two or more goals that cannot be simultaneously pursued, and achieving one goal may prevent or undermine the achievement of the other goal.

For example, a company might aim to increase profits by cutting costs, while also wanting to maintain a high level of customer satisfaction. These two goals can conflict with each other, as cost-cutting measures may lead to a decline in the quality of products or services, which in turn may negatively impact customer satisfaction.

Environmental conflict

Environmental conflict refers to disputes or disagreements that arise from the use, management, or preservation of natural resources and the environment. These conflicts can involve individuals, communities, organizations, or governments and occur at various levels, from local to global. Environmental conflicts can significantly impact businesses, including reputational damage, legal liabilities, financial losses, and reduced market access. There are many environmental management systems, such as ISO 14001, that help businesses to ensure compliance with environmental regulations.

It's worth noting that these types of conflict are not mutually exclusive and can often overlap in real-life situations. The effective management of interpersonal conflict requires identifying the type of conflict and selecting appropriate strategies to resolve it.

How to manage interpersonal conflicts

Conflicts are a natural part of any relationship and learning how to manage them effectively can strengthen the relationship and lead to better outcomes. While it can be challenging, there are several strategies you can adopt to navigate interpersonal conflicts:

  • Evaluate and reset your thinking: Before reacting, try to gain a clear understanding of the situation and the emotions involved. This may help you to identify the underlying causes of the conflict and guide you toward a resolution.
  • Participate in open communication: Communicate your perspective clearly and respectfully. At the same time, be sure you're actively listening to the other person's perspective and avoid interrupting or dismissing their feelings.
  • Find some common ground: Look for common goals or interests that you and the other person share. This can help to shift the focus away from the conflict and toward finding a mutually beneficial solution.
  • Compromise: You've heard of win-win solutions? Sometimes, finding a solution that meets both parties' needs may require compromise. Be willing to explore different options and work towards a solution that both parties can agree on.

  • Get help: While this should be the last resort, you may need the advice of a third party, such as a mediator, to facilitate the process.

Interpersonal vs intrapersonal conflict

While it can be easy to get inter and intrapersonal conflicts mixed up, they are completely different. Interpersonal conflicts refer to differences between two or more people. Intrapersonal conflicts are internal. If resolving a particular conflict involves self-reflection, introspection, and personal growth, then it's intrapersonal. If you have to communicate with someone else to solve the conflict, it's interpersonal. 

What can you learn from interpersonal conflicts?

Interpersonal conflicts can be challenging, but they can also provide valuable opportunities for learning and growth in areas including communication skills, emotional intelligence, relationship building, self-awareness, and problem-solving skills. By approaching conflicts with an open mind and a willingness to learn, individuals can turn difficult situations into opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Interpersonal conflicts aren't just normal: given the diversity of cultures and backgrounds in the workplace, they are inevitable. Interpersonal conflicts can lead to disagreements and tension, but when they are managed properly, they can strengthen relationships, improve skills, and promote cultures of excellence. When you learn to work through conflicts, you can turn difficult situations into opportunities for growth and learning. 

Do you have experience of dealing with interpersonal conflicts at work? Does that information show up on your resume? Submit your resume for a free review, and we'll help you to ensure that your conflict resolution skills shine brightly. 

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