Interpersonal conflicts can arise in any interaction between two or more people. Depending on the type of relationship in interpersonal interactions, circumstances may arise that can be called conflict situations. Solutions to interpersonal conflict, therefore, will depend on the type of setting and the nature of the misunderstanding that has arisen between the parties. This paper aims to discuss the types of interpersonal conflicts and recommended strategies for effective conflict resolution.
In my opinion, conflicts usually arise when two parties have different positions on significant issues and, at the same time, cannot hear each other or explain to each other the essence of the differences or their importance. For example, family conflicts usually relate to relationships between partners, the way children are brought up, or domestic issues related to spending money. Similarly, in a work setting, conflicts can be caused by problems in relationships between colleagues, employees, and superiors, conflicting views on projects, or issues of career and rewards.
There is an expert opinion that interpersonal conflicts can be divided into value conflicts, policy conflicts, and ego conflicts. Value conflicts may arise due to differences in the values and priorities of the parties, policy conflicts refer to different attitudes in problem-solving, and ego-conflicts, as a rule, affect problems in personal relationships and are associated with differences in personal qualities of the parties (McCord et al., 2018). Remarkably, scientists pay considerable attention to the process of communication as the main cause and method of conflict resolution. I see conflicts more as problematic interactions aimed at winning through the acquisition of some emotional or physical resource. I also see conflicts as arising from a lack of common values or the inability to find a common language.
Types of Communication Behaviors in Conflicts
Conflicts at the workplace may include aggression, Bullying, and interpersonal conflicts, which have characteristic differences depending on communication behaviors. Notelaers et al. (2018) note that aggression can be expressed through non-verbal behavior such as shoving, kicking, and hitting. At the same time, Bullying, if it is expressed in the form of discrimination, can be expressed in non-verbal behavior that excludes the victim of bullying from social situations to humiliate. Bullying can also be verbal and expressed as insults, a form of verbal aggression.
The main difference between interpersonal conflict and other forms of workplace aggression is that it can be exclusively verbal. According to Notelaers et al. (2018), interpersonal conflict “mostly manifests in verbal and non-physical ways” and, unlike aggression, those in conflict have no intention to harm other people (par. 8). Bullying causes significant harm to organizations, and it has immediate destructive consequences. This means that harm is established a priori, while in interpersonal conflicts, the perceived harm is established a posteriori (Notelaers et al., 2018). This means that although there is no immediate harm to the organization, non-resolution of conflicts between employees regarding any contentious issues leads to a deterioration in the performance of the organization as a whole.
Communication Behavior Examples
Examples of conflicts in the workplace may include disagreements over the way a new project is handled. For example, one of the colleagues may offer an unusual solution to the problem, while the main part of the team will insist on more traditional approaches. If the parties are not allowed to speak, and it is not clear that they heard, understood, and accepted each other’s arguments, joint work on the project will be less effective not only because of the reduced contribution to the work but also because of the tense emotional situation. Another example: one employee may get a promotion, and another will be upset because of this and also demand an increase in rewards. In such a situation, the intervention of the HR manager is necessary to clarify career opportunities and reward paths.
Interpersonal Conflicts and Personal Differences
Interpersonal conflicts may involve sensitive issues like a person’s gender, age, culture, race, and social status. McCord et al. (2018) conducted a study and found that “women perceive more sex-based mistreatment,” whereas “women and men report comparable perceptions of all other forms of mistreatment” (p. 137). The scholars also discovered that “racial minorities perceive more race-based mistreatment (mistreatment that explicitly targets a person’s race) in the workplace than Whites,” while there are “smaller differences race in all other forms of workplace mistreatment” (McCord et al., 2018, p. 137). Research findings suggest that the power distance that exists between supervisors and employees entails higher levels of interrelationship conflicts, and the gap in power distance is directly related to the intensity of conflicts (Graham et al., 2018). At the same time, conflict situations can be ironed out or neutralized in male-female or female-male employee-supervisor pairs.
Conflict resolution can occur through withdrawal, accommodation, competition, compromise, and collaboration. The latter is the most effective way to resolve conflicts, as it allows you to solve problems in communication. However, cooperation implies that each side will make equal efforts to resolve the conflict. This method is more effective than a compromise since the parties do not make concessions, leaving the opportunity to return to their original positions. On the contrary, they fully accept the point of view of the opponent and together find the optimal solution.
Thus, the types of interpersonal conflicts were discussed, and an effective strategy for conflict resolution was provided. Communication behaviors that lead to a conflict may be verbal and non-verbal and have severe consequences for the organization. These conflicts can entail gender, race, and other issues, although the general personal differences usually do not matter much in conflict emergence and progress. There are many ways to resolve conflicts, and they mostly focus on improving the communication between the conflicting sides.
Graham, K. A., Dust, S. B., & Ziegert, J. C. (2018). Supervisor-employee power distance incompatibility, gender similarity, and relationship conflict: A test of interpersonal interaction theory. Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(3), 334.
McCord, M. A., Joseph, D. L., Dhanani, L. Y., & Beus, J. M. (2018). A meta-analysis of sex and race differences in perceived workplace mistreatment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 103(2), 137.
Notelaers, G., Van der Heijden, B., Guenter, H., Nielsen, M. B., & Einarsen, S. V. (2018). Do interpersonal conflict, aggression and bullying at the workplace overlap? A latent class modeling approach. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 1743.