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Navigating the Different Types of Workplace Conflict with Ease

Chandni Ahuja
23 May 2024
20 min read
Navigating the Different Types of Workplace Conflict with Ease

Differences in opinion are natural, it’s a part of being human. It's normal for little disagreements to pop up between friends, family, or even coworkers. We've all been there - a simple chat escalating into a full-blown fight. But you know what? The good news here is that these workplace conflicts are not unbeatable. The disagreements that you have at work? They are totally normal! In fact, they are bound to happen from time to time. But the key to conquering this common workplace dragon is not avoiding the workplace conflict altogether. It is about mastering the art of navigating different examples of conflict in the workplace.

Let's face it, we're all like different instruments in a band. We bring our own unique sound and have our own preferred way of playing (working). This can sometimes lead to a bit of a musical clash, that is: an unnecessary conflict in the workplace. I mean, at work, we all have our own styles, priorities, goals, and ways of working. And with a diverse range of people working together in the same space, sometimes we are bound to bump heads. But hold on, conflicts aren’t always a bad thing! When handled with discretion, disagreements can sometimes spark some good insights into a stagnant project, allowing everyone to see things from a new perspective. But wait, let’s properly understand what is a workplace conflict.

What is a Workplace Conflict?

Workplace conflict refers to any sort of disagreement or tension flaring up between your coworkers or managers. This event can occur inside the workplace or even outside the closed cabin. Here’s the thing: different types of conflicts in the workplace include employment conflict (between employers and employees), labor-management conflict (between coworkers or managers), or even workplace conflicts between the employees with no boss involved! 

5 Types of Conflicts in the Workplace

Ever felt like you're in a workplace version of The Office? Between Michael's (hopefully non-existent) antics and Dwight's (hopefully under-controlled) competitive spirit, things can get a little...interesting. But hey, that's the reality of working with a diverse group of people! We all have our quirks and priorities, which can often clash, brewing a conflict in the workplace. The good news is that most of the workplace conflicts aren't out of a sitcom and can actually be resolved productively. So let’s first have a peek at the most common types of conflict in the workplace so you can better understand the problem.

1. Task-Based Conflict

We have all seen it coming! Different ideas come into the picture when you and your team are working on a business project with a timeline. It is one of the most classic clashes that happens in the workplace, where the team members often stick to their own point of view.

While this conflict isn’t personal, the best way to resolve this workplace conflict is by delegating the tasks effectively. If you are the manager, it is best to communicate with your teammates directly and set things clear. Setting a clear vision of each individual’s role and responsibility in the project would save hours of rework, and unnecessary conflicts, and even help you meet the deadline on time.

2. Personality-Based Conflict

As per workplace conflict statistics, around 49% of workplace conflicts arise due to personality clashes or warring egos between the employees or the employer. Every employee is wired differently, wanting to take their own style to the next level in the project. With diverse personalities working together on a project, there are high chances of us not liking a particular person because of their work style, approach, thinking style, or decision-making style. 

For instance, you might have thought of starting with the easy tasks in a bite-sized manner first, whereas your coworker might have thought of taking up the most challenging task and completing it first. This clash of styles can make teamwork a bumpy ride.

But wait! Personality differences don’t have to be a dealbreaker in a team project. The key here is to communicate effectively. By understanding each other’s styles and ways of proceeding further in a project, you learn to appreciate each other’s strengths and bring in a detailed and combined version of a solution. 

3. Value-Based Conflict

We all bring our own set of values, experiences, priorities, and beliefs to the workplace, right? Imagine suggesting a place to have dinner with your coworker: you, being diet-conscious, suggest a decent salad place. But, your coworker, who thrives on the pizzas and burgers during the night shift suggests a recently opened fast-food store close to the office. It is a pretty small clash, but it reflects your values and priorities. So rather than quarreling with each other, trying to share insights about how healthy or how tasty the food joint is, coming up with a plan to meet halfway (a diner that offers both food menus) is what it takes to overcome the value-based conflict in the workplace. 

While we think that it isn’t a big deal, our values, and beliefs often shape how we approach work. Although it isn’t a bad thing to have your own beliefs, it affects your relationship with coworkers when it clouds your judgment, leading to unnecessary clashes with colleagues. 

So how to avoid conflict of interest in the workplace? You seek common ground to speak openly. You share your perspectives and beliefs and respect theirs. You find ways to leverage the strength of each other’s beliefs and individual approaches to come to a conclusion. You respect the boundaries of each other and show flexibility to foster a more inclusive and respectful work environment.

4. Leadership Style Conflict

Well, leaders come in all shapes and sizes, isn’t that right? Everybody has a different leadership style in the workplace. Some leaders are loud and magnetic while others are easy-going and friendly. 

But let’s face it– workplace teams are like families. We have to face them every day and get the work done to reach the targeted goal together. So while different individuals have different styles of taking ownership of the project, it is important to value and respect their style. Cultivating mutual respect for differences is the key to resolving conflict in the workplace

5. Interpersonal Conflict

Whispers in the hallway, passive-aggressive emails, subtle remarks against a particular coworker or a group of people, that feeling like you are walking on eggshells around a coworker; it is not a new thing we are hearing! We have all experienced subtle discrimination and hostility in the workplace. 

But the problem here is– interpersonal conflict is a type of conflict in the workplace that goes way beyond personality and value clashes. We’re talking rumors, gossip, and uninvited drama. The type of toxicity that brews a truly awful and hostile work environment. This type of conflict not only affects the victim but also creates a tense and unproductive atmosphere for everyone. So it is important to set boundaries, learn where your coworkers come from, and respect them for who they are.

Examples of Conflict in the Workplace

Some of the most common examples of conflict in the workplace are:


We all meet coworkers who have had different experiences in life, so it is not uncommon to have misunderstandings at some moments in the workplace. Conflicts in the workplace often get triggered due to generational differences or cultural expectations. However, the only way to resolve the conflict is by properly communicating with that colleague.

Lack of communication often leads to misinterpretation and misunderstandings, which can breed a hostile work environment. So the key is to remember where your coworkers come from and have an open mind and space to communicate without any judgments.

Harassment or Discrimination

Unfortunately, discrimination and harassment still occur in the workplace, creating a toxic work environment. It can be as simple as one colleague or manager being biased toward another colleague or the victim experiencing unwelcome advances in the workplace

It is important to address the harassment complaints and ensure your employees feel safe working in the organization. If one of your coworkers complains about a workplace violence incident or bullying, you should consider their claim seriously and take the necessary actions to prevent it from happening in the future.

Status Quo Bias

Status quo bias is the tendency to want things to stay the same way, even if things could be better with the new changes. Conflicts in the workplace usually arise because one of your coworkers would want to make some slight changes to the project but you’d be reluctant to do so, considering the efforts you put into completing it on time.

This resistance to change can make things uncomfortable for your coworkers, thus impacting overall team productivity. So it is important to acknowledge it and resolve it as and when you face it.

Poor Work Habit

While one colleague might arrive 10 minutes early to the office, the other would show up an hour and a half late, ready with the excuses and reasons for the delay. With different work habits, you often get frustrated working with them on the same project.

Due to a lack of communication and coordination, your team often falls behind in meeting deadlines. This not only breaks the mutual trust between the team but also fires up the frustration into a serious workplace conflict.


A little healthy competition harms nobody– it pushes your team to extend their limits and give their best work. But, sometimes, turning everything into a competition can have its own downsides in the long run. This could involve bragging about a recent accomplishment, downplaying a coworker’s accomplishment, or even resorting to sneaky tactics to get ahead in the group project.

Competing in every small task can result in a toxic work environment, so instead of promoting gossip and arguments, it's best to collaborate with your team and share an open space where everyone can speak out and feel heard and valued. 

Overall, the three most common types of conflict in the workplace are personality-based conflict, interpersonal conflict, and work-style conflict. Now that you know the examples of workplace conflict, let’s get a better understanding of why conflict resolution is important in the workplace.

Why is Conflict Resolution Necessary in the Workplace?

Conflict resolution, also known as positive conflict, is necessary in the workplace because it helps you understand that the conflict wasn’t completely bad. Still, it led to something meaningful and beneficial for the organization. When people from varied backgrounds, cultures, and personalities come together to collaborate, you discover opposing ideas and new perspectives and reach a unanimous conclusion.

Some key benefits of conflict resolution in the workplace include:

  • Improved decision-making
  • Better productivity
  • Increased team cohesion 
  • Increased trust and confidence 
  • Enhanced creativity 
  • Improved personal and professional growth 
  • Stronger relationships
  • Enhanced learning experience

How to Resolve a Workplace Conflict?

Wondering how to avoid conflict of interest in the workplace? Here are a few scenarios with possible ways to approach and resolve it effectively.

Scenario 1– Miscommunication 

Your colleagues, Sarah and Michael, work on a client presentation remotely. Sarah sends an email outlining her ideas, but some key details are missing. Michael, a fast worker, skims the email and starts working based on his assumptions. Later, Sarah sees Michael's progress and freaks out because it's not aligned with her vision. Emails fly back and forth, laced with frustration. This heats up the situation, possibly leading to a conflict. 


  • Facilitating a Clear-the-Air Meeting: 

Bring Sarah and Michael together for a video call to discuss the issue openly. Encourage them to calmly explain their perspectives and frustrations.

  • Promoting Active Listening: 

Guide them to truly listen to each other, asking clarifying questions and summarizing key points.

  • Setting Clear Communication Guidelines: 

Moving forward, establish clear communication protocols. This could involve requiring outlines for complex projects or encouraging video calls for anything beyond simple updates.

Scenario 2– Generational Clash

You’re a seasoned manager with a detail-oriented work style, whereas John, a newbie in the domain, prefers taking a flexible approach to a recent business project. You constantly feel like John isn’t being thorough enough in his work and feel the urge to micromanage. 


  • Understanding Generational Differences: 

Acknowledge the different work styles of each generation. You might value face-to-face meetings for feedback, while John might prefer online chats.

  • Finding Common Ground: 

Work with John to establish a communication style that works for both. Maybe you can offer less frequent but more in-depth feedback, while John can provide more detailed progress updates electronically.

  • Celebrating Diversity: 

Frame the situation as an opportunity to learn from each other. Your experience can guide John, while his fresh perspective can help you adapt to new ways of working together on the project.

Scenario 3– Credit Crunch

David, a stellar developer on your team, consistently gets passed over for promotions, even though he delivers excellent work. He suspects his colleague, Lisa, who is good at self-promotion, takes credit for some of his contributions. This breeds resentment and affects team morale.

So how do you handle the credit-grabbing?


  • Have a Private Conversation with David

Acknowledge David's concerns and empathize with his frustration.

  • Open and Transparent Communication: 

Encourage David to speak up about his contributions in meetings, making sure to give clear and concise updates on his projects.

  • Performance Recognition System: 

Review your team's performance evaluation process. Is it transparent and fair? Can individual contributions be more clearly recognized?

  • Mediation Between David and Lisa: 

If necessary, mediate a conversation between David and Lisa to clear the air and encourage collaboration.


1. What is a workplace conflict?

A workplace conflict is basically a disagreement or tension that pops up between you and your coworkers, manager, or even someone else in the office. It can be something small, like a misunderstanding about a task, or something bigger, like feeling like you're not getting the credit you deserve.

2. What are some signs of conflict in the workplace?

Some common signs of conflict in the workplace are increased tension or awkwardness between colleagues; passive-aggressive behavior, like gossiping or giving someone the silent treatment; difficulty communicating or collaborating on projects, missed deadlines, or decreased productivity; outbursts of anger or frustration; or high employee turnover.

3. How can I prevent conflict in the workplace?

You can prevent conflict in the workplace by promoting open and honest communication, setting clear expectations of the responsibilities of your coworkers, celebrating and valuing different work styles, addressing small issues before they escalate, and focusing on team-building activities to engage your employees in the workplace. 

4. What should I do if I'm involved in a conflict at work?

If you find yourself in a conflict situation in the workplace, stay calm and professional– avoid getting emotional. Try to see things from the other person’s perspective before jumping to a conclusion. Find a solution, rather than blame gaming. If you can’t resolve the conflict on your own, seek help from an authoritative person in your workplace.

5. Can I avoid workplace conflict through employee training?

Absolutely! That is one of the great ways towards conflict resolution in the workplace. Calibr LXP offers all the HRs and managers trying to promote a positive work culture with the course–Navigating Workplace Issues- HR Involvement to understand workplace challenges and implement effective strategies to overcome workplace conflict.

Chandni Ahuja

As an enthusiastic English literature graduate, Chandni enjoys writing as much as a toddler enjoys animation. She discovered her passion for writing and expressing thoughts through this form amidst the nail-biting months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ever since then, she has volunteered in various anthology books that have been published on Amazon. Her experience working on a diverse range of verticals has enabled her to excel in this domain and face new challenges as they come. With a contagious thrill and excitement at the workplace, Chandni embraces wearing different hats and soaks up information like a sponge.