How to Overcome Workplace Conflict and Improve Workplace Culture

Workplace conflict is surprisingly common. Some studies have found that 70% of people experience workplace conflict. Other studies report even higher rates of up to 90%. This is alarming when many of us spend the majority of our lives at work.

No one wants to feel uncomfortable going in to work each day. It is therefore extremely important to get along with your boss and colleagues.  200219289-001

So what are some ways of overcoming workplace conflict? First we explore the causes of workplace conflict. Second we explore how to overcome workplace conflict and create more harmonious workplace cultures.

What are the most common causes of conflict in the workplace?

There are many causes of workplace conflict. Some of the most common include:

  • Miscommunication – misunderstandings or misinterpretations of what has been said
  • Relationship issues – people not getting along due to different personalities or styles
  • Leadership style – mismatch between the way a manager managers and the way an employee wants to be managed
  • Work expectations – people feeling that expectations are unfair or unreasonable

What are the biggest “pet peeves” from bosses?

It really depends on the boss and the organisation. Here are some common complaints from bosses:

  • Employees not getting job done – time-wasting, inefficiencies or ineffective processes
  • Not behaving according to the culture and values of the organisation – lack of collaboration or team orientation, self-focused
  • Personal issues affecting work – although there is a recognition these days that people are not robots and we cannot turn off a switch and leave our emotions at home
  • Absenteeism­ – people having time off without legitimate reason
  • Complaining – bosses get frustrated when people constantly complain rather than getting on with the job

What are employee’s biggest “pet peeves” about the boss?

Employees often get frustrated with bosses in the following circumstances:

  • Un-clear expectations – not having clarity on expected tasks or roles
  • Micro-management – not feeling trusted, no autonomy or freedom
  • Bosses not addressing the issues – feeling unsupported or unheard when the boss fails to act on a concern
  • Not feeling challenged – menial or repetitive work, without career development

What are your top tips for bosses?

Bosses can employ a number of strategies to create more effective and harmonious workplaces. Some of these include:

  • Set clear vision, values and goals
  • Outline roles and tasks – what and when
  • Give feedback, seek feedback
  • Develop rapport with staff

What are your top tips for an employee?

Each boss is different and may have different requirements. These are some of the strategies employees or staff can employ to improve their experience at work:

  • Show commitment to the job / organisation
  • Get the job done
  • Behave according to the culture
  • Be upfront when issues arise
  • Think outside the box / value-add

What Are Some Tips for Overcoming Conflict?

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. However, there are a few strategies to assist you overcome your differences with your boss and co-workers:

  • Self-awareness – increase your awareness of your own behavior and responses and the impact it can have on others
  • Taking responsibility – for your contribution to the issues
  • Empathy – Putting yourself in the other persons’ shoes
  • Speak up / Take action – to resolve the issues as soon as possible rather than avoiding them.

Workplace cultures can be transformed through leaders implementing a few simple strategies that help employees feel more comfortable in the workplace. Effective strategies improve staff engagement leading to higher performance, satisfaction and commitment to the organisation.

If you would like to watch a clip on Channel 7’s, The Morning Show with Caryn Cridland speaking about improving workplace culture and overcoming conflict, watch the video below!


  1. In principle strategies to reduce workplace conflict are great, in practice when it gets to the extremes of bullying and lateral violence, there is not much that good will, evidence, Work cover, independent investigators and the workplace insurance coverer can do. In the end it is one person’s word against another. If the boss is a bully, the Fair Work Commissioner sends the complaint to him or her and the boss gets the last say. Anyone who complains is usually out of a job.

  2. Hi Dee,
    I am sorry to hear of your experience. It certainly can happen as you have described it, unfortunately.

    We encourage workplaces to act to resolve issues as soon as they arise rather than waiting for serious consequences. Many organisations are now training their staff in workplace conflict resolution skills to try to prevent these situations. This is a great sign – so hopefully more organisations in future will ensure that people don’t lose their jobs when they are having problems in the workplace.



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