In an environment where individuals spend long periods of time together e.g. the typical workplace, conflict is certainly inevitable. The conflicts usually occur when there is any sense of incompatible interests amongst persons in that workplace. There exist lots of sources causing conflict in the workplaces including external, organizational, interpersonal, and change related factors (Ritvo 54).
In today’s business environment, regardless of its size, change is a huge factor that causes conflict in the workplace. Employees of any business entity might find it difficult adjusting to any changes in their work environment. These changes may include:
Changing physical locations permanently in a workplace almost always brings about conflict among the employees; for instance, when changing offices, moving to new buildings or during renovation. This is mostly because the employees have been used to their ‘usual’ locations, friends or routines and might be unhappy with the new locations. Changing these aspects may bring conflicts within the workplace because nothing is in its familiar place and order. The employees ‘productivity may go down in the workplace, as a result, until they acclimate to the new changes.
This change in the workplace includes bringing in new managers or supervisors. Even if the change is positive, it can still affect the employees because the unknown is exhilarating to some and frightening to others. Working under the supervision of someone one has never worked with brings with it some tension because one is not sure what the new management is all about, or capable of doing. Some employees also fear losing some privileges that they enjoyed during the former management. There might develop some resistance or friction between the new management and employees, and as a result, productivity in the workplace may decrease until the dust settles down.
Reduction of workforce
Companies always look to increase sales and cut costs when they fall short in income. Between the two alternatives, cost cutting is more controllable. The process of cutting costs may lead to reduction of the workforce. This may be done by laying off some employees, eliminating a department as a whole, or outsourcing their work. Such moves instill fear in the remaining employees who may feel vulnerable in their jobs and may even start looking for employment elsewhere.
Companies or businesses are often sold or bought on a regular basis. Such changes affect employees because when the companies merge, each company comes in with its own accounting, IT or Human Resource departments; whereas, the consolidating company needs only one of each. Such changes affect employees because the new employees may be expected to live up to new or different standards of the acquiring company, and this might be unfamiliar and difficult (ILM 27)
Lawsuits are common in the modern business world. Lawsuits may come from customers for alleged defects in products. This may result to additional strain asserted to manufacturing supervisors, and control and quality personnel. Sexual harassment lawsuits may result in employees taken through training or seminars while pending lawsuits might bring the company to the mass media’s attention ‘ resulting in embarrassment to the staff and unwanted publicity.
Ritvo (2005) states that managing these conflicts brought about by change can be done by either the employees themselves or their management. The employees must first learn that change is inevitable and find other ways to cope with it. This may include acceptance, staying focus, and maintaining a positive attitude. Management, on the other hand, can go easy on employees undergoing change of any form and also help them in seeing the bigger picture that comes in with the change.
Managing conflict in the Workplace. 5th ed. Oxford, Boston: Published for the Institute of Leadership & Management by Pergamon Flexible Learning, 2007. Print.
Ritvo, Roger A.. Managing in the age of change. Alexandria, Va.: NTL Institute ;, 2005. Print.