Healthy vs Unhealthy Workplace Conflict - Enspark Interactive | Blog

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Healthy vs Unhealthy Workplace Conflict

November 16, 2022

Research consistently shows that problems that employees experience at work stem not from job performance issues but from conflicts between co-workers. It is also a leading cause of loss of talent, with 58% of employees reporting to have quit work because of negative office politics. 

This statistic stresses the importance of identifying conflict in the workplace and solving it as quickly and effectively as possible. But it is also important to look at the various types of conflict and to know when to address it. 

Healthy vs unhealthy employee conflict

It is important, however, to note that not all employee conflict is bad. Running a successful business will involve some degree of healthy employee competition to stay motivated and on track. Some examples of healthy conflict are competition in sales or project deadlines, and conflicting ideas during the creative process that are good-natured and quickly resolved on their own.

Because there can be healthy and unhealthy conflict within the workplace, it is important to properly identify the two so that you will neither interrupt healthy conflict, or let unhealthy conflict turn in to a greater problem. Watch for these behaviors to identify unhealthy conflict:

  • Distrust between employees. This includes hiding work or reports of “cheating”
  • Negative comments made by one employee about the other either to them or another employee, even in a seemingly joking matter.
  • Decrease in performance ability or work quality. Lack of motivation.

These are all indicators that the conflict between your employees has become more than friendly competition or the sharing of view points, and needs to be addressed. If the problem is left alone, it can lead to a decrease in the morale of your workplace, lower productivity, the termination of one or all employees involved, or even physical harm. 

How to address workplace conflict 

Confronting the problem when it starts is key to resolving it quickly. Start by letting your employees know that you are aware of the conflict, and offer solutions to negotiating a situation that will work best for all of them. Setting separate workplace goals for the conflicting employees will also help in this instance because it will allow them more space while they cool off from the argument.

Identification of the problem and resolution are important, however, prevention is the best option. Prevention of negative conflict in the workplace is best achieved through educating your employees on appropriate behavior and defining clear job descriptions and employee roles. Incorporating workplace violence and conflict resolution training in your training process will help prevent employee conflict because it teaches these concepts. Enspark can help you find the perfect off-the-shelf training program, or help you customize your own, to prevent conflict in your workplace and help you and your employees resolve any existing issues faster and more effectively.

More Enspark resources on workplace dynamics:

What is retaliation? 

How managers can help prevent Zoom fatigue

Sexual harassment in the workplace: what to know in 2022

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