Workplace stress due to interpersonal workplace conflicts can make daily life on the job unbearable, and the resulting anxiety or depression from various examples of interpersonal conflict can take a toll on your mental health. Imagine a workplace scenario where your boss openly loses their temper with you due to a mistake you made. They call attention to it in the middle of the office where other employees can hear, rather than having a respectful, private discussion with you about the issue. They make you feel unappreciated or cause you to question whether you can continue doing the job.
When faced with this or another example of interpersonal conflict in the workplace, it’s important to protect your mental health by implementing strategies for managing stress. Learn how to approach interpersonal conflicts with professionalism and protect your inner peace with these tips.
What Is an Interpersonal Conflict?
An interpersonal conflict is a type of disagreement, argument or negative interaction between two or more people. Interpersonal conflict is a type of external occurrence, different from intrapersonal conflict, which refers to an individual’s internal struggle with themselves. In the workplace, interpersonal conflict can take many forms.
Common Examples of Interpersonal Conflicts
There are essentially six types of interpersonal conflict that can occur:
- Pseudo conflict: This type of conflict occurs when two parties are at odds because of a miscommunication. For example, two project leaders are in conflict because they believe they perceive their goals as different when in reality they want the same thing.
- Fact conflict: A fact conflict occurs when two or more people in the workplace disagree about the details of something factual. For example, two sales representatives disagree about who had a better quarter. This type of conflict is easily resolve by fact-checking.
- Meta conflict: A meta conflict occurs when two or more people at work disagree about another conflict that took place — for example, a confrontation between an employee and a supervisor about the way they were spoken to over a mistake made at work (an argument about an argument).
- Value conflict: A value conflict is when two or more people disagree about their beliefs or personal convictions. An example of a value conflict at work is a teacher and their department head disagreeing about what subject matter is appropriate for students to learn, despite it being in line with the curriculum.
- Ego conflict: Ego conflicts are what commonly comes to mind when you think of a conflict. This is someone lashing out or defending themselves because they feel their character, choices or capabilities are in question. A workplace example of ego conflict is an employee confronting a colleague about how they spoke to them in a meeting and the colleague defending themselves instead of taking ownership and apologizing.
- Policy conflict: These conflicts happen when two or more employees disagree about how to approach a process or issue. For example, two employees have different methods for inputting data and can’t agree on how to train a new hire they’ve been tasked with coaching.
5 Tips on Managing Interpersonal Conflict
Approaching workplace conflict with professionalism is a valuable skill and not only improves the way you’re perceived at work but also protects your mental health. When you manage interpersonal conflicts with tact and respect, you can rest easy knowing you’ve done your best to resolve the issue in a positive and thoughtful way.
1. Be Prepared to Confront Issues
Expect conflict to occur in the workplace so you can be prepared to deal with it. Understand the answer to “What is interpersonal conflict?” and know that interpersonal conflict is a natural part of human interaction. Don’t shy away from it. Simply develop and hone the skills to manage these situations. Being prepared can reduce your stress when a conflict occurs.
2. Listen to Other Points of View
Successful conflict management requires you to consider other points of view and understand that your opinion isn’t always the right one. Be willing to actively listen to what others have to say and use all available information to make decisions.
Although it may create the illusion of de-escalating a situation, avoiding conflict by taking a passive approach can cause relationships to become strained. It’s critical to be a good communicator so you can discuss problems and disagreements that occur. Don’t hesitate to talk to your colleagues or supervisors when you have concerns about a conflict or situation.
4. Don’t Let Emotion Drive Your Decisions
It’s natural to feel emotional when you’re involved in a conflict, but to manage the situation professionally, you need to separate yourself from these feelings. Try to examine the situation objectively before responding or taking action. Sometimes, this requires you to politely excuse yourself from a conversation or wait a couple of hours before responding to an email so you can think clearly and rationally.
5. Focus on the Facts
When working with various personalities, it can be challenging to separate the person from the situation. Try to focus on the events that took place during a conflict rather than fixating on the individual you’re dealing with to avoid fueling the disagreement on a personal level.
How to Care for Yourself When Dealing With Stress
If defusing the situation and resolving conflict at work isn’t possible by implementing these tips, sometimes you simply need to prioritize self-care and your mental health. You can care for yourself when dealing with workplace stress by:
- Keeping a journal to track your stress
- Establishing healthy boundaries (i.e., not checking your email after 7 p.m., no screen time during your lunch hour, etc.)
- Taking time to relax after work
- Developing hobbies outside of the workplace that fulfill you
- Talking to a therapist or other mental health professional for support
When Workplace Conflict Should Be Escalated or Reported
If you’re practicing ways to reduce the stress induced by workplace conflicts and these tools for managing interpersonal conflicts aren’t working, it might be time for further action. According to a ComPsych survey, 62% of respondents report high levels of stress due to work. When a workplace situation becomes so toxic that you can’t function regularly outside of work due to the anxiety or depression the job causes you, there are options available to you. You can:
- Report the colleague or supervisor causing the conflict to Human Resources (HR)
- Give your notice and look for another job
- Have a candid conversation with your supervisor about a coworker who’s mistreating you
Professional Support Is Available
Occupational stress is an indicator of anxiety, according to studies. If conflict management tools aren’t helping, professionals at Restore can assist you in managing your mental health. Treatment for anxiety and depression is available in both inpatient and outpatient care programs. Call (877) 594-3566 today to start your journey to better mental health.