Managing interpersonal conflict in the workplace

Have you ever encountered a tense situation at work? Maybe you were caught up in a disagreement with a colleague? Or maybe you were upset about what someone said to you? Interpersonal conflict is inevitable in the workplace. It occurs when two or more people have a disagreement or dispute. However, if not managed correctly, these disagreements can exacerbate into a much bigger problems, causing emotional stress, diminished working relationships, and negatively impact the wellbeing of those involved.

Why do workplace conflicts happen?

Workplace conflicts can emerge for several reasons. They are often underpinned by:

  • Poor communication
  • Personality differences / clashes
  • Misunderstandings
  • Lack of trust
  • Values differences
  • Lack of role clarity
  • Unrealistic expectations

The negative effects of interpersonal conflict in the workplace, can include:

  • Decreased productivity and efficiency with tasks / projects
  • Increased work disruptions
  • Decreased team morale
  • Increase in employee turnover
  • Increase in absenteeism

Interpersonal conflict is one of the main causes of workplace stress and can have significant effects to the mental health and wellbeing of employees involved. Conflict has been associated with poor mental health outcomes, including negative emotional stress, increasing risk for depressive symptoms, anxiety, and burnout. Did you know that work related bullying and harassment is the number one cause of all psychological injuries in NSW? In the workplace, disagreements are unavoidable, and are a normal outcome of human interactions. However, learning to manage interpersonal conflict is an essential skill that can help to maintain workplace psychological wellbeing and help to resolve issues of interpersonal tension.

Top tips for managing interpersonal conflict

  1. Individual coaching to build interpersonal and communication capability

Individual coaching can help to build interpersonal skills that can be used to successfully communicate with others and manage interpersonal conflict. Individual coaching can equip employees with vital skills including active listening, teamwork, empathy, and patience for conflict resolution. These skills help to mutually understand issues, build trust, strengthen relationships, and stop small problems from becoming a much bigger one.

  1. Improving interpersonal effectiveness through independent mediation services

Mediation services are a process which aim to resolve conflict in a safe and respectful setting. They are facilitated by a mediator and aim to build better working relationships through addressing workplace conflict between two or more parties in an open and respectful manner. Mediations that are carried out by an independent qualified mediator in a safe way have high success rates. They consist of constructively discussing key issues and agreeing to a future desired outcome.

  1. Role of supportive leadership to build psychological safety

Supportive leadership helps to build psychological safety through fostering a culture that is underpinned by trust, respect, support, and a willingness for employees to be vulnerable. Workplaces that are psychologically safe allow individuals to speak about ideas and concerns free of interpersonal risk. Particularly in conflict management, the effectiveness of supportive leadership has shown that employees are more likely to communicate early on when conflict is beginning and are more openly willing to work with their colleagues to resolve and discontent.

Resilia offer a range of services including mediation, consulting and training which can be used to address workplace issues that are causing mental health problems. To find out more about Resilia’s rehabilitation specialist services visit, or contact Resilia on 02 8243 1550 or