How Interpersonal Conflicts in the Workplace Impact Productivity

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

When two or more people work together, interpersonal conflicts are almost inevitable. Sometimes conflicts are good, as they can promote competition and propel people to work harder. However, when these conflicts continue to build up, they may negatively impact the productivity and morale of everyone in the workplace.

Common Causes of Office Conflicts

Some common causes of office conflicts include personality differences, feeble leadership, dishonesty, and stress. For example, one team member may prefer to get things done early, while another team member may prefer to leave things until the last minute. When these two people work together, their different work styles could cause potential conflicts.

However, when it comes right down to it, the root cause of interpersonal conflicts is poor communication. Lack of effective communication often leads to confusion regarding things like responsibilities, priorities, and access to resources. These confusions, if not clarified as soon as they arise, can gradually cause conflicts.

Office Conflicts Lower Productivity

The operation of a business relies on the interdependence of its employees. When people don’t get along, they spend time on dealing with conflicts rather than working on productive tasks. They may spend time trying to convince other employees to take their side or finding ways to retaliate. All these activities translate to lost productive time.

For example, when a customer complains about a problem, instead of trying to solve the problem, two employees who don’t get along may start to blame each other for the problem and waste time arguing.

When office conflicts escalate, people may even take time off from work to avoid going to the office. This can lead to project delays or even failures, which in turn cause customer dissatisfaction. A small business may end up losing customers as a result of office conflicts.

Cost of Unresolved Office Conflicts

Conflict-related work absenteeism also increases direct cost of a business. For example, when someone takes a paid sick day just to avoid conflict, it’s a financial loss to the company. If the company needs to hire a temporary employee because of the absence, it adds even more costs to the business.

In addition, employees may quit or get fired due to interpersonal conflicts in the workplace. The cost to replace an employee, particularly a mid to high-level employee, is high. A company not only incurs recruitment costs, such as costs to post job ads, but also incurs non-financial costs since the employer needs to spend time interviewing candidates and the new hire needs to be trained.

Ways to Handle Office Conflicts

The best way to handle conflicts is to address them before they become serious problems. It’s important for an employer to be impartial and listen to all parties involved to find out the source of a conflict. It’s also helpful to have all parties sit together and talk things out.

The ultimate goal of the employer is to help the conflicting employees reach a resolution so that they can put the conflict behind them. While two disgruntled employees may never be friends, they should be able to work in the same office.

References & Resources

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