Managing Conflict at Work (Part 1)

Serious disagreement and disaffection between colleagues in the workplace is a huge Conflict at workdrain on businesses, which can ill afford the distraction. Strife, and the stress and unhappiness that come with it, can affect productivity, cause absenteeism and increase staff turnover.

While human behaviour is complex, most particularly when under stress, the same trends and themes are often repeated and understanding these, and the dynamics involved, can be half the battle when seeking to neutralise and resolve conflict. By upping their Emotional Intelligence skill-set, managers become more proficient at spotting the early warning signals, and are far better placed to anticipate and then influence what happens next.

Among the most common causes of conflict are:


We often draw conclusions about people within moments of meeting them, or even just seeing them across the office – this is the ‘first impression’ trap. Once in place such preconceptions can condition our views of what others do and say from then on. We should therefore take time to find out more about those around us, or at least be aware of not forming our opinions before we have had the chance to do so.


Do we ever get the wrong end of the stick? Certainly we do. The best way of avoiding this is, of course, communication - there is no better antidote to adjusting a negative impression of someone than simply filling in the blanks.


Often these are born of ignorance and misunderstanding but also the baggage people take to work can have a huge effect as exterior problems may spill over at the office. This is not excusing poor manners or bad behaviour, but if we begin to understand the causes of someone’s behaviour it could at least change our reactions for the better.


This is about our territory, and our desire to protect what we have or what we should like to have. If we feel threatened we are unlikely to be at our most reasonable or generous, and in such a frame of mind it is only a short step from a colleague being perceived as a rival to them being seen as an enemy. Once this point is reached it is hardly surprising that relations can deteriorate very badly.


When we are on our guard we are alerted to anything we interpret as challenging or threatening in nature – at this point we perceive both as one the same thing which can then lead to the next issue.


A form of social myopia obscuring a wider picture can develop, as we do not want to be seen to be giving ground. Our opinions become beliefs and therefore part of us so it can be very easy to slip into taking challenges very personally. So often when we 'believe' something it becomes regarded by us as the ‘truth’. It is ingrained in us to defend what we believe to be the truth, to be just, to be right. Of course there are very clear-cut instances of right and wrong, truth and falsehood; in human relations, however, things are rarely so straightforward.

So these are just some of the elements that can contribute to a dynamic of conflict at work. In part two of this article I look at ways in which resolution between individuals can be found, and balance in the workplace restored. After all, with success in business not getting any easier why allow preventable problems from dictating the office agenda?

Alan Keyse is a qualified business and Life coach and specializes in coaching Emotional Intelligence to business owners, executives, managers and their teams – throughout London – on a 1-2-1 or group basis.

For further information contact Alan on



Tel: 07583 618 284

Skype: alan.keyse