Interpersonal Conflict - Definition, Examples, Resources

What is interpersonal conflict at work? Interpersonal conflict is a major issue that every employer and employee will face at some point. To reduce the existence of interpersonal conflict in the workplace, it is critical to understand the many forms that might occur and how to resolve them effectively. Analyzing examples of interpersonal conflict can be an extremely effective way for an employer or employee to mitigate the difficulties that arise and contribute to these types of job-related problems.

interpersonal conflict

What's interpersonal conflict in the workplace?

Interpersonal conflict refers to any form of disagreement between two or more individuals. Interpersonal conflict is described in the workplace as a person or group of individuals interfering with another person's attempts to accomplish goals or complete responsibilities.

Resolving this type of workplace dispute can aid in the restoration of working relationships, enhance morale, and promote customer satisfaction.

What is a workplace conflict?

Conflict can be described simply as an acrimonious dispute or antagonism of interests or views. Conflict is a natural and expected occurrence in every job where individuals work together. Conflict in the workplace has been shown to diminish team morale, increase absenteeism, and reduce productivity.

Supervisors are expected to spend at least 25% of their time addressing workplace disagreements. The flight-or-fight response is the most frequent response to any conflict scenario; some want to flee or avoid the issue at all costs, while others prefer to fight it out. In any scenario, we frequently feel uneasy and unhappy with the conclusion due to the lack of resolve.

What is conflict management?

Conflict management is the skill of identifying and resolving disputes rationally, fairly, and efficiently. Given that disputes are a natural aspect of business, it is critical that there exist individuals who understand and are capable of resolving them.

This is more critical than ever in today's economy. Everyone is attempting to demonstrate their value to the organization for which they work, which can occasionally result in conflict with other team members.

Why do workplace conflicts occur?

Conflicts in the workplace occur whenever two or more persons express divergent viewpoints. This might occur between coworkers, managers, or between clients and clients. It can occur for a variety of causes, including divergent ideals, personality conflicts, or ineffective communication.

In terms of ineffective communication, this sort of conflict might occur when a management reassigns a work to a new employee without notifying the previous assignee.

This can leave the employee feeling betrayed and mistrusted by their management, and can even breed hatred toward the employee who has been assigned the duty. While interpersonal conflict is unavoidable, employees can take efforts to mitigate or avoid it entirely.

To begin, it's critical to analyze the nature of the interpersonal dispute at hand.

Types of interpersonal conflict that occurs

It is critical to examine all types of interpersonal disputes while attempting to comprehend them and determine the best course of action. The four forms of interpersonal conflict are as follows:


Pseudo-conflicts occur when two people desire dissimilar things and are unable to reach an agreement. If two team leaders are working on a project and one wants everyone to take notes on a computer while the other wants everyone to take notes using pen and paper, this is a case of pseudo-conflict.

Their desire to tackle a project in two distinct ways and their inability to collaborate is what causes the conflict. Pseudo-conflicts sometimes involve minor differences that frequently obscure the real issue.

Policy-related interpersonal conflict

When conflict arises over a shared choice or situation, it is referred to as policy-related interpersonal conflict. For instance, if a couple of workers were assigned a work assignment, and one employee desired to advance using steps ABC, while the other believed it would be more logical to begin with XYZ.

When policy-related interpersonal disputes develop in the workplace, it is advisable to seek a win-win scenario or to reach a compromise, especially on more trivial issues, to ensure that the conflict's fundamental concerns are addressed on both sides.

interpersonal conflict

Value-related conflicts

Occasionally, disputes arise between two people when their fundamental value systems are incompatible. While this type of dispute initially begins, it can be difficult to detect since the parties involved frequently believe the other side is being stubborn or unpleasant, when in fact they just have divergent fundamental beliefs. One colleague can place such a premium on their time away from the workplace that they refuse to check e-mails or be available outside of business hours.

Other coworkers can place a higher premium on client or coworker availability. Conflict can occur when a coworker who places a premium on availability is unable to contact someone who places a premium on work-life balance. Interpersonal disagreements over values are sometimes difficult to resolve because neither party wants to make a concession.

Often, it is preferable to agree to disagree.

Ego-related interpersonal conflicts

Losing an argument in an ego dispute can be detrimental to a person's pride. Occasionally, ego conflicts emerge as a result of a collection of little disputes that remain unsolved. One instance of interpersonal conflict caused by ego is when one coworker is already sensitive to a boss preferring another colleague.

If the manager then solicits input from both parties, the coworker who is already sensitive to the management's favoritism can say or do anything to express his or her larger sentiments about the boss's favoritism. This would likely exacerbate the conflict beyond what the circumstance warrants. It is preferable to address the core cause of the problem and strive toward a resolution.

Task conflict

Conflicts arising from assigned tasks (also known as cognitive or substantive conflict). This refers to divergent views on how to carry out a job-related task or make a job-related decision. For instance, disagreements about the best method for managing a project or divergent opinions on how to allocate finite resources are examples.

Relationship conflict

This focuses on interpersonal differences and the resulting social and emotional interactions. Additionally, it is referred to as emotional conflict, and it is characterized by interpersonal hostility and hate. It elicits intense negative emotions such as rage, frustration, and hate.

What is conflict resolution?

Conflict, disagreements, and change are all inherent components of our lives, as well as those of any agency, organization, and nation.

Conflict resolution is a process through which two or more parties can work out a peaceful settlement to their conflict. The conflict might be personal, economical, political, or emotional in nature.

When a conflict develops, the best course of action is frequently to resolve it through negotiation.

The objectives of negotiation are as follows:

  • To arrive at a solution that is acceptable to all parties To work as soon as possible to get at this solution
  • To strengthen, not to deteriorate, the relationship between the conflicting groups
  • Negotiation can be beneficial to all parties involved. Often, each party gains more by engaging in talks than by walking away, and it can provide your group with resources that would otherwise be unavailable.

interpersonal conflict

How to resolve interpersonal conflict

While workplace disputes are inevitable, they can also be avoided. Often, resolving the conflict contributes to the development of better connections and lays the path for future success.

The following are some strategies for resolving interpersonal conflict:

Talk to each other

Understanding your coworker's perspective is a frequently used technique for resolving interpersonal problems. Without speaking over one another, listen to one another's thoughts and viewpoints. Make an effort to meet face-to-face and keep your talk focused on the task at hand.

Actively listen

Without interrupting, listen to what the other person has to say. This not only demonstrates empathy but also assists you in determining the source of the problem. By clarifying your comprehension of their issues, you can also demonstrate to them that you are listening.

Display empathy

Recognize your coworker's worries and listen closely to their complaints is an excellent approach to demonstrate empathy and caring. It's critical to understand their motivations and behaviors in order to foster candor and avoid future conflict.


With several personalities at work, it's critical to accept what is, to forgive, and to go on. Allowing yourself to let go of grudges will enable you to focus on the good in the future and maintain your concentration on the work.

Work on communication

There are numerous ways to enhance your communication abilities. Several techniques include remaining on the subject, paying attention to one's body language, and keeping eye contact. Active listening is another excellent technique for honing your communication abilities.

Example of interpersonal conflict

If one person obtains a raise and another does not, the latter can harbor ill will against both the other employee and their supervisor if they believe they work harder than the individual who earned the rise. Employees' pride has been harmed as a result of this ego-driven interpersonal dispute, and they can believe their employer prefers the other employee. It is conceivable that the employee's jealously or emotions of hatred has grown with time and that their thoughts have shown themselves in nasty behavior on their behalf. In these instances, it is preferable to address the underlying issue in order to avoid additional conflict and wounded feelings.

Interpersonal issues at work can be just as challenging. Due to the diversity of personality traits, leadership styles, job duties, and the manner in which people interact, interpersonal conflicts will always be something we must learn to manage in the workplace. By honing your interpersonal skills, you can assist avoid future professional problems.

interpersonal conflict

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo,, SparkHire,,, FairyGodBoss,, St. Edwards University, NC State University,, Thrive Global,, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

Fact checked: Our small and dedicated team rigorously evaluates every article, guide, and reference to ensure the information is accurate and factual. Learn more.


Help us by spreading the word