Causes of conflicts in corporate workplace

man and woman arguing in workplace

Corporate conflicts do not just occur by themselves or pop up from nowhere. It is critical to discover the source of the conflict. This is to further ensure the work in corporate field is done smoothly without any issues. Plus, this ensures a harmonious and conducive work environment. Generally these are the categories of conflicts:

  1. Communication Differences
  2. Structural Differences
  3. Personal Differences

1. Communication Differences

These are usually disagreements due to semantic difficulties, misunderstandings and too much noise in the communication channel. People are often quick to assume that most conflicts are caused by a lack of communication. However, there is generally a lot of communication happening. The mistake many people make is assuming good communication means having others agree to their views. Examples of communication differences are:

• Differences Over Facts

A fact is a piece of data that can be quantified or an event that can be documented. Arguments over facts should not last very long since they are verifiable. But a statement like, “It is a fact that you are rude and you stab me in the back”, is neither documentable or quantifiable and so is actually a difference in perception.

• Misunderstanding

Most interpersonal conflict is actually due to communication breakdown. And when it does, a listener’s assumptions about a speaker’s intent often create interpersonal conflict.

• Unfulfilled Expectations

Many of the causes listed above contribute to one person not fulfilling the expectations of another. Unfulfilled expectations are the ultimate cause of divorce, separation, firings and other forms of relational breakdown. The major reason that expectations go unfulfilled is that they are not effectively communicated and confirmed.

2. Structural Differences

Organisations are differentiated both horizontally and vertically. Management divides up the work or job to be done, groups similar tasks into departments and sets up rules and procedures for the different departments. This structural differentiation can result in conflicts as employees argue over goals, decision alternatives, performance reviews and resource allocation. Some examples:

• Differences Over Goals

An argument about whether a company should focus more resources on one department over another is a disagreement over goals. Another example would be whether or not to increase the amount of advanced professional training given to some employees over others.

• Differences Over Methods

Two sides may have similar goals but disagree on how to attain them. For example, how should a particular project be implemented?

• Competition For Scarce Resources

Two managers might argue over who has the greater need for an additional staff or who should have more budget allocation.

• Competition For Supremacy

This happens when one employee strives to outperform or outshine another person. You might see it when two employees compete for a promotion or incentive or for comparative power in an organisation.

3. Personal Differences

Conflicts can and often evolve out of differences in individual behaviour & personal value systems. The chemistry between some people makes it hard for them to work or interact together. Factors such as family background, education, experience and training shape each person into a unique individual with a particular set of values. These personal differences can cause people to be perceived as being stubborn, too sensitive or peculiar which often results in conflict. Examples of personal differences are:

• Prejudice / Bias

Conflict is sometimes traced to ‘personalities’. This is one person differing with another based simply on how he or she feels or perceives about that person.

• Nastiness

Some people go through life with a chip on their shoulder and seem to search for fights with others.

• Overly Sensitive

This occurs when a person, due to low self-esteem, insecurity or difficulties in his or her life easily feels attacked by feedback, criticism or other interpersonal directness.

• Differences In Perception or Values

Most conflict results from the way people view the world with their own perception or mental map or internal representation. These incongruent views are due to differences in upbringing, culture, race, experience, education, occupation and other environmental factors.


Email: [email protected]/[email protected]
YouTube: Rachel Khor


Principal Trainer, Peak Success Abundance Sdn Bhd

From Directive Communication International & American Institute of Business Psychology:

– Certification in Colored Brain Communication
– Certification in Human Drive & Motivation
– Certification in Dynamic Speaking
– Certification in Curriculum Development
– PSMB Certified Trainer
– Certification in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)
– Certification in Hypnotherapy from London College of Clinical
Hypnosis (LCCH)
– 18 years corporate training experience

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