Konflikte am Arbeitsplatz - Workplace Conflicts – Four Triggers Causing the Majority of Team Conflicts

Workplace Conflicts – Four Triggers Causing the Majority of Team Conflicts

Konflikte am Arbeitsplatz I 1 - Workplace Conflicts – Four Triggers Causing the Majority of Team Conflicts

Tensions rise in the meeting room, glances become intense, and the tension in the air is palpable. Who hasn’t experienced this? A constructive discussion was just taking place, and suddenly the flow has stopped. Instead, nothing is moving forward, and a classic situation unfolds where a process conflict almost leads to an escalation.

Often, it’s clear behind closed doors that the process conflict is actually a relationship conflict… And very few proactively tackle this… Perhaps better to sit it out, thinking “it will get better,” “common sense will prevail” – but will it?

It’s clear – if conflicts are not well managed, they can significantly impair a team and even paralyze it. Conflict management is therefore one of the greatest fears for new managers. According to a study by Benjamin Laker and Vijay Pereira, around 38% of employees in the UK experience interpersonal conflicts annually, and in the USA, employees spend almost three hours per week dealing with conflicts. Overall, according to the study, conflict resolution can take up to 40% of a manager’s time.

But: conflicts are not inherently bad – they are often the starting point for the best ideas, which arise through an initially perhaps controversial and constructive confrontation.

And beware – if there are no conflicts at all in a larger team, there is a good chance that “groupthink” is so pronounced that no diversity is allowed – which in turn generally reduces the rate of innovation.

So, the goal is not to avoid conflicts but to approach them constructively and openly.

The key is to understand their causes.

To find these out, Benjamin Laker and Vijay Pereira surveyed more than 1,000 first-time managers and their direct employees in 76 companies worldwide. They consistently found that recognizing the cause or trigger of a stressful situation can prevent conflicts before they start.

The four triggers of the majority (91%) of conflicts within organizations are caused by the following issues:

  • Communication differences (39%),
  • Opaque performance standards (14%),
  • Unreasonable time constraints (16%), and
  • Unclear expectations (22%).

So, what helps?

  1. Establish clear communication channels. See important conversations as an investment. 
    Often, we are confronted with multiple communication channels simultaneously. It helps to define within the company and team which information is shared on which channel – where is information shared that does not require an immediate response but serves as information? And through which medium are questions shared that need real-time answers? Serious, controversial debates or sensitive information are more suitable for personal meetings (or at least an online meeting). This is often not considered important enough in the “heat of the moment.” Holistically, it is often much more effective to put in what feels like more effort… – because: communication is not the key – mutual understanding is! 

    Tip: Effectively overcome communication differences

A. Promote an open communication culture: 
Regular team meetings and mutual feedback rounds – not once a year, but simply as a regular tool that provides transparency and relief by reducing potential tension.

B. Clear communication guidelines: 
Uniform tools and clear processes.

C. Intercultural sensitivity: 
Training and mentoring programs.

D. Active listening and empathy: 
Deeper relationships and broader understanding.

2. Be transparent about performance expectations. 
According to the aforementioned study, a common mistake among first-time managers is quantifying and tracking absolutely all activities of their team members to measure performance. This is often due to a lack of experience or knowledge about what the most important things are to track holistically and how they should be weighted.

Tip: Clarify opaque performance standards

A. Clear performance metrics: 
SMART goals and transparent progress tracking.

B. Regular performance reviews: 
Constructive feedback and identification of development areas, even below the annual level.

C. Involve employees: 
Joint goal setting and thus increased intrinsic motivation.

D. Transparent expectations: 
Regular communication and documentation.

E. Supportive work environment: 
Training, recognition, and rewards.

3. Define realistic timings. 
Workplace conflicts can arise when team members have different expectations about time management or deadlines. This often occurs in project work when someone misjudges the time their colleague needs to complete a task or doesn’t consider what else their project partners are working on. Consequently, more is expected than is “reasonable,” contributing to 16% of total organizational conflicts.

The good news? This can be solved. 

Tip: Avoid unrealistic and thus demotivating time constraints – better to set realistic-ambitious goals

A. Realistic time planning: 
Analysis of past projects and buffer times.

B. Involve employees: 
Utilize expertise and promote a joint planning process.

C. Prioritization: 
Identify the most important tasks and promote focused work.

D. Continuous review: 
Regular progress checks and adjustments.

E. Training and support:
Time management training and open communication.

4. Set clear task and role expectations. 
These expectations must be transparent and mutually accepted. If everyone assumes that someone else is responsible for completing a task, tasks inevitably get lost, leading to blame, accusations, and missed deadlines – a combination that contributes to 22% of total organizational conflicts. We recommend creating a short guide for complex projects that outlines the expectations for your team members, their roles, and assigned tasks, especially for projects involving multiple people. 88% of the managers rated as most effective in the study did this.

Clearly formulate unclear expectations

A. Clearly defined roles: 
Detailed job descriptions and responsibility matrices.

B. Feedback conversations: 
Regular one-on-one meetings to clarify expectations.

C. Transparent goal setting: 
Clear, achievable, and measurable goals.

D. Documentation: 
Written documentation of expectations and use of project management tools.

E .Training and support: 
Coaching, mentoring, and a culture of knowledge sharing.

Effective conflict management is crucial for the long-term success and health of any organization. Studies have shown that companies that manage conflicts well have higher employee satisfaction and productivity. For example, a study by the American Management Association (AMA) found that well-managed conflicts can lead to a 25% improvement in team performance and a 30% increase in innovation.

By overcoming communication differences, clearly defining performance standards, setting realistic time constraints, and clearly formulating expectations, a work environment is created where employees can reach their full potential.

This not only leads to a positive working atmosphere but also to better business results.

It’s worth openly addressing the issue of conflict management in a team. Relaxation occurs immediately, common guidelines can be defined – and the network of psychological safety becomes much more resilient.

For the joy of all involved.

Continued success!