Category Archives: Emotion

Five causes of workplace conflict

When we find ourselves in conflict it’s easy to focus on our feelings of anger and frustration, rather than trying to identify the causes of the conflict. Sometimes, conflict occurs in the workplace because individual roles and responsibilities have not been clarified. But sometimes the causes of conflict run deep. Let’s look at five different causes of conflict—and how to address them.

Conflicts are likely when different areas of the organisation have competing interests. For example, if Sales promises more than Manufacturing can deliver, conflicts arise. Similarly, in complex organisations where specialists focus on narrow areas of expertise, some of these people may expect their needs to be given priority. Again, this can lead to conflict. These are clearly cases when roles and relationships have not been clarified.

Conflicts are also likely when people work under pressure. Most people accept that they will need to work at high tempo from time to time. Such periods are usually followed by some acknowledgment of the extra effort they have made, and some time-off in lieu. But it’s easy for working under pressure to become the norm, when it’s actually the result of poor planning or inadequate resourcing. Either way, the responsibility rests with managers to address the issue, before it leads to outbursts of conflict.

Conflict can also arise when people care passionately—perhaps too passionately—about their work. For example, some members of an environmental organisation may hold doctrinaire views about the value of green power, leading to conflict with other members who oppose the establishment of wind farms, also on environmental grounds. In this case, the organisation would do well to develop a shared set of values. This may involve some difficult conversations about personal values, and what these values mean in practice. In the long run, however, the time taken to clarify these values will be worth it.

Conflict can also erupt when people with different personalities work together. Most of us just assume that our way of interacting with others is best for everyone. But if an extravert does not give an introvert the space needed to process a new idea, or if an analytical thinker discounts the contribution of a more caring team member, this can lead to conflict. Investing in team development can prevent these conflicts from arising in the first place.

Finally, there are those conflicts which arise from our personal histories. Many people have experienced some kind of psychological trauma in their lives. Without realising it, they may be drawn to people and situations which enable them to act out their personal dramas. If the acting out involves workaholism, it may pass unnoticed, or even attract positive attention. But at other times such acting out can turn rough. If you suspect this to be the case, speak with Human Resources or your Employee Assistance Provider. The staff member involved needs your help, not condemnation.


When my colleague is in pain

When introverts experience emotional pain, they often wall themselves off from others. They would rather be left alone, to work through their pain in private. It’s essential to their healing. In the workplace, however, such behaviour can be seen as disengagement or disinterest. People who are in pain may not interact as freely with theirContinue Reading


Five cognitive distortions: correct overgeneralisation

This is the third in a series of blog posts looking at five cognitive distortions of high achievers. Today, we’re looking at correct overgeneralisation. Michael Dearing defines this as making universal judgements from limited observations. In other words, basing critical decisions on scant data. Sounds like something many of us do–but Dearing adds this kicker: and beingContinue Reading


Working with thinking and feeling types

This post follows on from our previous post about working with sensing and intuitive personalities. It’s the third in a series of posts about the use of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in the workplace. The third dimension in the MBTI identifies our preferred style for making decisions. On one hand, there are people who use logicContinue Reading


Bullying: a gender-neutral pursuit

The Brisbane Times has posed a controversial question: are women worse bullies than men? A quick scan of the comments page shows that this article has stirred up a lot of negative feeling. Many readers have shared their own experiences in the hands of workplace bullies, both male and female. Unfortunately, workplace bullying is all tooContinue Reading


How to deal with outbursts of emotion

Here’s a scenario many managers and team leaders fear: a staff member sits down in your office and bursts into tears. You don’t know how to handle such an outpouring of emotion. What should you do? Your first step is simple: hand them a box of tissues. Don’t have a box of tissues handy? ThenContinue Reading