Types Of Conflicts In The Workplace

5 Types Of Conflicts In The Workplace And How To Beat Them

Conflicts are a natural part of life, both personally and professionally. These conflicts in the workplace can make it distracting, frustrating, and difficult for the employee to grow and develop to their full potential. Conflicts can happen due to disagreements in project goals, personality clashes, and different working styles.
These conflicts must be resolved promptly and professionally for growth and productivity. For managers, knowing how conflicts work and how to manage them effectively can make a big difference in their careers. In this blog, we will discuss what conflicts are, the types of conflicts, and common causes of conflict between team members.

What is conflict in the workplace?

Conflict is an inevitable part of all human interactions. Conflict can be defined as a dispute or disagreement between two or more people/parties. Conflicts can arise from a variety of sources, such as differences in opinions, values, or interests, and can have a range of consequences, from minor inconvenience to severe disruption and damage.

Although many conflicts are prevalent in any workplace, it is essential to understand the underlying causes, and addressing them in a timely manner can help to resolve them effectively. While conflicts are generally presumed to be negative. That does not need to be the case always! Healthy conflicts can help managers create a better workplace too. Now lets discuss the common types of conflicts in the workplace.

Read more: 5 Secrets To Conflict Resolution At Work For Managers

5 Common Types of Conflicts in the Workplace

Leadership Conflicts

A leadership conflict, which is one of the common types of conflicts in the workplace, occurs when there is disagreement about how to lead the team. This may involve disputes about the leader’s authority, decision-making power, or strategy. Managers can resolve a leadership conflict through discussion and negotiation. Leadership conflict can negatively impact productivity, morale, and the overall success of the team.

An example of a leadership conflict can look like:

Two managers from different departments have differing opinions on how to approach a cross-functional project. Manager A believes in a more collaborative and inclusive approach, while Manager B prefers a top-down, authoritative decision-making style. The conflict arises as they struggle to find a common ground and prioritize their respective teams’ interests.

Following are some types of conflicts that are included under leadership conflicts.

  • Goal conflicts: This is one of those types of conflict that occurs when managers have different goals or objectives for the organization.
  • Role conflicts: Conflicts can occur when managers are not clear about their roles and responsibilities, leading to confusion and overlap.
  • Decision-making conflicts: Conflicts can occur when managers of different departments disagree on important decisions, such as strategy or budget.
A leadership conflict can be challenging to resolve, but with discussion and negotiation, it is possible to work through it and move forward as a team. It takes commitment and dedication from all team members/managers to succeed effectively.

Work Style Conflicts

Work style, another one of the common types of conflicts, occur when employees have different expectations about how the employees should work. For example, conflict could arise from cultural differences, personality clashes, and other views about the job. These conflicts can lead to workplace tension and potentially tension-related problems, such as workplace harassment or burnout.

An example of work style conflict at work can be:

Two team members have conflicting approaches to time management. Team Member X is highly organized and prefers to plan tasks meticulously in advance, while Team Member Y is more spontaneous and enjoys working in bursts of creativity. This conflict can lead to tension in meeting deadlines and coordinating efforts on projects, causing communication and collaboration challenges within the team.

There are three main types of conflicts under this category:

  • Task style conflicts occur when two individuals have different expectations about the type of work assigned. For instance, an individual may expect to complete a particular task in the quickest and easiest way possible, while another expects a more untraditional way of doing the task.
  • Relationship style conflicts occur when two people have different philosophies regarding their working relationship.
  • Managerial style conflicts can happen in any work environment where disagreements exist over how the team should complete tasks and how managers should manage employees.
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Creative Conflicts

Creative conflicts happen when different team members have additional ideas or goals. These conflicts are challenging to resolve, as they involve creativity and innovation and often lead to tension and conflict between team members.

An example of creative conflict in the workplace can be:

A team of designers is working on a new product concept, and they have differing opinions on the overall design direction. Designer A advocates for a minimalist and sleek design, while Designer B believes a more vibrant and innovative approach would be better. This creative conflict can lead to passionate debates and differences in vision, making it challenging to reach a consensus on the final design.

There are five types of conflicts that come under creative conflicts: conceptual, technical, interpersonal, structural, and political.

  • Conceptual conflicts occur when different team members see a situation or problem differently. For example, two team members may have different views on solving a problem or the best solution. Such conflicts can be challenging to resolve due to the complexity of the issue and the various perspectives involved.
  • Technical conflicts occur when a team has differences in skills or expertise. For instance, two team members may have different areas of expertise which could lead to tension and conflict when working on a project together.
  • Structural conflicts arise when a team needs more authority or responsibilities. This can create confusion about who is responsible for specific tasks and increase the risk of project failure.
  • Political conflicts arise from competing interests within a team that may lead to conflict over decisions or outcomes.

Personality Conflicts

Many different types of conflicts in the workplace can occur. One of the most common types of conflict is personality conflict or interpersonal conflict. This conflict occurs when two or more people have different personalities, which leads to differences in communication styles and work preferences.

An example of personality conflicts at work is:

Two colleagues with vastly different personalities find it difficult to work together effectively. Employee A is introverted, prefers working independently, and is detail-oriented. On the other hand, Employee B is extroverted, enjoys collaboration, and focuses on the bigger picture. Their contrasting personalities may lead to misunderstandings, communication issues, and clashes in decision-making, affecting team dynamics and productivity.

Different personalities often clash, creating workplace tension and leading to interpersonal conflicts.

  • Relationship conflicts occur when two or more people disagree regarding their working relationships.
  • Power conflicts arise when one person in a workplace has more significant influence than another.
  • Status conflicts can occur between two people with different levels of authority within the workplace.

Task-Based Conflicts

Task-based is one of the types of conflicts in the workplace that happens when different groups of workers are assigned tasks that conflict with each other. Such types of conflicts can arise from various sources, such as different expectations or goals, conflicting work schedules, and insufficient communication.

An example of task based conflict can be:

Two team members have different opinions on how to approach a specific project or task. Employee X believes that a methodical and structured approach is necessary for success, while Employee Y prefers a more flexible and creative approach. This conflict can lead to disagreements on project milestones, deliverables, and timelines, causing delays and hindering progress.

The best way to prevent task-based conflicts is to establish clear and concise job descriptions that clearly outline each position’s duties and responsibilities. Instead of assigning different tasks, redefining the work or finding ways to minimize the conflict may be possible.

types of conflicts in the workplace

Why do workplace conflicts happen? How can managers overcome conflicts in the workplace?

Conflict is an inevitable part of workplace life. While there are many types of conflicts in the workplace, such as personality clashes, different opinions, and disagreements over goals, it is crucial to identify and address the source of conflict to prevent it from arising. In this way, managers can resolve workplace conflicts healthily by finding a constructive way to fix them (either through negotiation or mediation).

Resistance to Change

Many workers resist proposed or implemented changes, especially if they feel that the changes will negatively impact their job. This can lead to various types of conflict in the workplace, as different groups of people fight against each other to protect their status quo.

The best way to avoid this conflict is to understand why the workers resist change and then find ways to compromise and reach an agreement. If you compromise with your team and find a mutually agreeable solution, you can reduce workplace conflict and improve workplace efficiency. 

Unclear Job Expectations

Unclear job expectations can lead to workplace conflicts. Employers and employees need to clarify their expectations of each other before the start of the workday. If expectations are not clearly defined, there is a risk of misunderstandings or disagreements. In any case, it is essential to resolve conflicts without resorting to confrontation. The team can avoid conflict and achieve productive work by discussing expectations before starting work.

Read more: Employee Expectation Questions: A Guide to Setting Clear Performance Goals


Poor Communication

Poor communication is one of the most common causes of workplace conflict and may lead to various types of conflicts. It can lead to misunderstandings and frustration on both sides. Workplace communication challenges can be rooted in various factors, including miscommunication of goals, expectations, and roles. In addition, poor communication may occur when teams need help to convey information properly or clarify agenda items.

To ensure good communication, addressing communication issues early and being open to changing your approach to contact as needed is essential. You can take several steps to improve communication in your workplace, such as having regular team meetings, workshops, and training sessions. Additionally, consider creating a contact list for key team members so that everyone has easy access to each other.

Read more: 10+ Tips To Overcome Barriers To Effective Communication

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Differences in Personality

Conflict can arise from a variety of different sources, including personality differences. Some common causes of personality-based conflict in the workplace include individuals with different personalities having difficulty working together. This is because people with different personalities have different communication styles, values, work styles, etc., which can lead to misunderstanding and frustration among the team members. These types of conflicts can manifest in arguments and even hostility between team members.

One of the most important tips for avoiding personality-based conflicts at work is to communicate effectively and openly with colleagues. This includes actively listening to other’s perspectives, expressing your point of view clearly, and being open to feedback. Additionally, making an effort to understand and appreciate different personalities and working styles can help to minimize conflicts and build a more cohesive team.

Poor Work Habits

Poor work habits can lead to different types of conflict in the workplace. Some everyday poor work habits include arriving late, not following through on promises, and needing to be more organized. Lack of accountability and responsibility can create resentment and mistrust among team members, leading to conflicts and communication breakdowns. Also, disorganization and procrastination can lead to missed deadlines, frustration and resentment among team members, and ultimately to conflicts.

If you want to avoid any unnecessary conflict in the workplace, it is vital to identify and address your bad habits early on. In addition, identifying and improving your work habits can help you improve the quality of your work and reduce the risk of workplace conflict. It’s a win-win for everyone!


In conclusion, conflicts are a natural part of any workplace, and as a manager, it is essential to understand the different types of conflicts in the workplace that may arise. By identifying and understanding the root cause of a conflict, managers can effectively manage and resolve the situation. It is also vital for managers to have strong communication and problem-solving skills to navigate conflicts and maintain a positive and productive work environment for all employees.

Grab your free copy of the conflict management toolkit for managers

Identify the types and causes of conflicts plaguing your team at work

What are some examples of conflict in the workplace?

Examples of conflict in the workplace include disagreements over project priorities, conflicting communication styles, personality clashes, competition for resources, and differences in decision-making approaches.

How different kinds of conflict manifest in the workplace?

Different kinds of conflict manifest in the workplace through arguments, tension, reduced collaboration, increased stress, decreased productivity, and strained relationships among employees or teams.

What are conflicts at workplace?

Conflicts at the workplace refer to disagreements, disputes, or clashes that arise due to varying opinions, interests, or working styles, impacting the overall harmony and effectiveness of the organization.

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