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    Jun 06, 2023    |   Psychometrics Canada

Workplace Conflict

conflicting speech bubbles

Written by Justin M. Deonarine, I/O Psychologist 

Read time: 5 minutes  


Conflict: Any situation in which the concerns of two people appear to be incompatible.

Dr. Kenneth W. Thomas and Dr. Ralph H. Kilmann


Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Conflict might even be necessary. Almost everyone has to deal with conflict at some time or another. In fact, less than one out of one hundred respondents say they never have had to handle conflict, while almost 38% say they deal with conflict frequently or always.

However, these differences of opinion do not need to result in a negative outcome, and team performance can actually improve when conflict is handled correctly. Resolving conflict in a productive manner helps teams understand each other better, and improves trust within the team. These improved relationships can be a source of motivation for the individuals. Also, throughout the process of resolving the issue at hand, communication is required. As a result, more voices are heard and perspectives are considered. Attempting to resolve conflict in a healthy manner can spark creativity and drive innovation.

On the other hand, leaving conflict unresolved results in morale and productivity deficits. Consequences of these deficits include individuals leaving the organization, increased sickness or absence, personal insults or attacks used during tense moments, and even termination of employees.

In this article, you will find resources designed to help you better understand and manage conflict in the workplace. These resources cover a range of topics, including communication skills, conflict resolution techniques, and strategies for building stronger relationships with colleagues and team members. They will help you enhance your self-awareness and interpersonal skills, as well as improve your team’s performance. Using these resources, you will learn strategies and discover tools that will help you handle conflict effectively, creating a more positive and productive work environment for yourself and those around you.

When does workplace conflict most commonly occur?

There are a few types of conflict that one can encounter in the workplace. Reasons for conflict range from task-focused (completing work or the approach towards a goal/task) to personality-based (differing perspectives on the same issue). One model from Harvard considers Tasks (resources, policies and procedures), Relationships (personality styles) and Values (identities and values). However, we took a deeper dive to understand when and why conflict occurs within organizations.

How do you approach workplace conflict?

When it comes to conflict management, there are two common factors to consider: Your needs and the needs of the other party. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument refers to these needs as Assertiveness (fulfilling your needs) and Cooperativeness (fulfilling the needs of others). According to this model, there are 5 main modes (or styles) which individuals use to navigate conflict: Competing, Accommodating, Avoiding, Compromising and Collaborating.

Resolving Workplace Conflict Effectively: Three Considerations

Understand yourself, understand the others and communicate. These are the three keys to resolving conflict effectively.

Conflict Resolution: The questions that you can ask to navigate conflict within your team

When confronted with a challenge to be resolved, how do you react? Our conflict responses are thought to be automatic. We have a response that we tend to favour, and we try that approach first. If this style doesn’t work, then we will review the situation and choose another approach.

However, this isn’t always an effective way of resolving conflict. Instead, consider how you can take more measured approach.

Conflict Resolution Skills: How to get the best of each of the five modes

Now you know the ways that you can approach conflict, the factors that you need to consider and the questions that you need to ask to better understand the scenario. What skills will you need to resolve conflict effectively? Do these skills change based on the approach that you’ll need to use?

Conflict in Times of Uncertainty

Sometimes, there are just too many unknowns. It doesn’t have to be on the scale of a global pandemic, but data suggests that conflict changes when there is a high degree of uncertainty. There may be an element of fear to push for what you need. What if it’s the wrong choice? What if I don’t actually need this? It’s similar to paralysis by analysis: Why don’t we wait out the situation?

What is lost from this uncertainty? How can we overcome this fear? Check out this blog post to learn more.

Conflict in the Remote Working World

Similar to the challenge of uncertainty above, virtual teams may experience conflict differently than when they were together in the office. While uncertainty brings loss of assertiveness due to fear of the unknown, a virtual environment also makes it harder to be assertive.

Continue reading to learn more about what factors create these changes and you can adjust them.

Conflict and Leadership

Conflict management and leadership effectiveness go hand-in-hand:

  • Depending on the study, 93 to 99% of HR professionals see conflict management as an important leadership skill.
  • However, only 17% of respondents report that leaders are effective dealing with conflict.
  • On the other hand, 73% of respondents suggest that poor leadership as a common cause of conflict.

Continue reading to learn more about how leaders can improve their conflict management skills.

Conflict in the Workplace: Is it Good or Bad?

In this webinar, we explore:

  • Whether conflict is good or bad
  • When conflict tends to occur
  • Approaching conflict and resolving it effectively
  • Leading through times of conflict
  • Changes to conflict in the remote working world

Workplace Conflict Assessments

Great conflict management and resolution skills require self- and other-awareness as a foundation, but it’s difficult to build this base without a framework and objective insights to guide your learning. The best supporting tool is a psychometric assessment that looks at conflict and conflict behaviours. Discover which assessments can help you understand and manage conflict more effectively.


Conflict in the workplace is a reality that cannot be avoided, but it can be managed effectively with the right tools and mindset. By understanding the benefits of conflict resolution and investing time and effort into developing this important skill, individuals can help to create a more productive work environment for themselves and their colleagues.

Empower your organization and invest in our comprehensive assessments and resources to equip your team with the tools and mindset needed to effectively manage workplace conflicts. By fostering a positive work environment, you can boost productivity and cultivate a collaborative workplace culture. Take the lead in transforming your organization today.


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