Five Signs that Conflict is Escalating in Your Workplace

We all like to think that conflict will go away or improve if we let it be.  Unfortunately, this rarely happens.  Failing to manage conflict successfully has negative impacts and can create an entirely new spin off of difficult issues such as deteriorating trust and broken working relationships.

Healthy conflict should be welcome in our workplaces and is needed to ensure we produce the best outcome.  Discussing differing ideas allows us to share information and collaborate with others.  Engaging in a respectful dialogue to reach a creative solution is the hopeful outcome of resolving conflict.

If a disagreement is not resolved productively conflict can escalate creating negative outcomes.  Here are some warning signs that conflict is escalating;

  1.  The focus shifts from the problem to becoming personal.  ‘Jack is being unreasonable with his expectation that we can meet this deadline’
  2. People become discouraged (frustrated) with on-going dialogue and become reluctant to discuss the issue.  ‘What’s the use of having another meeting, we can’t get anywhere with this’
  3. Camps or coalitions are formed and those involved persuade others to join their side.  ‘Don’t you agree that our team lead is taking us down the wrong path?’
  4. Extensive time and effort is spent protecting the group and their opinions (ideology).  Team members become distracted and spend time in small group discussions or behind closed doors.
  5. People become openly hostile or isolated.  This may be expressed through inappropriate behaviours such as shouting or door slamming or others remaining in their offices or working from home.

If you are noticing these signs in your workplace it may be time to get extra support.  Your Human Resources professional, union representative or Ombudsman may be able to assist.

The Workplace Fairness Institute works to support organizations and employees in conflict through conflict coaching, facilitation, mediation and training.

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