Whether we like it or not conflict is an inevitable and sometimes inescapable part of organizational life and that isn’t always a bad thing and if you’re in a leadership position or if you aspire to a leadership role a great deal of your success will depend on how well you respond to, handle and manage conflict among the people you work with.

Defining conflicts, the positive approach

The word conflict dates back to the 15th century and comes from the Latin root that means to combat or strike which immediately tells us that conflict and the potential for conflict is something to be taken very seriously. Basically, conflict exists when there is a perceived incompatibility of interest between two or more individuals or groups.

Conflicts can be constructive when they brings people together and makes them to be honest and truthful in discussing a real issue, but if left unchecked conflicts can become petty personal and pretty ugly. It’s a skill that leaders need before going to be successful as a leadership team and organization.

The roots of conflict, facts of life

The starting point for most conflict is opposition, incompatibility, disagreements or a collision of interest that takes place between people or groups that may be interdependent but have different ideas priorities, needs, interests and values. These are the roots of conflict that are simply facts of life.

People sometimes have opposing interests. It’s how you handle that opposition that makes all the difference and one recent survey of American business leaders and other professionals shows that nearly 70% of respondents said that they believe that conflict in the workplace is on the rise. So, let’s see why would that be the case what factors might be producing a higher incidence of conflict on the job.

The pressure factor

As organizations experience greater competitive pressure the people within organizations are constantly being asked to change and to do more with less and to do everything faster. As jobs change workloads increase and the pace of people’s personal lives accelerate.

They have more pressure and stress, and with more pressure and stress communication and coping skills can easily break down making us cranky cantankerous and crabby. All of this pressure in turn can make us harder to work with and more susceptible to workplace conflict.

The complexity and change factor

As organizations grow in size the increase in complexity the respondent said it’s becoming a greater challenge to have a shared vision and strategy that’s understood by all: clearly defined roles and responsibilities and high levels of teamwork and cooperation.

As complexity increases so does the likelihood of organizational politics and organizational politics are a fertile breeding ground for workplace conflict. So the more complex an organization is the greater the chance of conflict.

The competition factor

As organizations experience rising external competitive pressure there also experiencing an increase in internal competition. So when people are competing for scarce resources like budget allocations rewards and promotions healthy competition can easily degenerate into open conflict.

The leadership factor

As organizations become more competitive and more complex the members of such organizations report that there is a rising need for dynamic leaders to step up and constantly realign their leadership skills to meet the challenge.

But many individuals are not practicing the fundamentals of leadership in the rapidly changing organizations and the natural result is unnecessary and counterproductive conflict.

The social factor

A greater range of workplace attitudes values and personalities that are increasing the likelihood of interpersonal conflict and tension at work. Society is changing and it’s inevitable that the workplace will change with it and if those changes produced tensions in society at large they will undoubtedly appear in the workplace as well.

So, workplace conflicts are naturally occurring phenomena and given today’s competitive work environment it’s not surprising that there on the rise and this presents a serious challenge for anyone who’s trying to keep an organization operating at peak performance.