EFFECTS OF WORKPLACE CONFLICT ON MENTAL HEALTH
Every organization is made up of individuals who come from different backgrounds, with different cultural, religious and moral beliefs, who have been raised in distinct ways, and who have been placed together to achieve a common organizational goal. Given these differences, it is not without question that they would be a major source of conflict. Additionally, workplace conflict can be a result of the following factors: personality differences, unmet needs in the workplace, perceived inequities of resources, mismanagement of organizational change and transition, poor communication, including misunderstood remarks and comments taken out of context, differences over work methods or goals, differences in perspectives attributable to age, sex or upbringing etc.
Conflict could be further exacerbated by situational contexts such as the global pandemic which the world is currently facing. The changes in the modus operandi of the organization have left many workers overwhelmed, tensed & stressed because not only are they uncertain about the future, there are dealing with technological constraints, increased workload, poor work-life balance etc.
Conflict can take many forms including harassment & bullying and can occur from top-down i.e from management to lower-level employees or across the board i.e between employees. Research has actually shown that the most common form of conflict is between an employee and his/her direct boss/line manager.
Where conflict is left unresolved it can intensify and spread, affecting more than the individuals originally involved, to affecting a group of people and sometimes the entire workplace.
While harmony is treasured, conflict is almost always inevitable and is a normal part of any social and organizational setting, the challenge of conflict lies in how one chooses to deal with it. Here are several tips on how to manage conflict and your mental health simultaneously:
- Acknowledge that conflict occurs/it exists: It is inevitable that as long as you are dealing with people, conflict is bound to ensue. Taking cognizance of the issue is the first step to dealing with it.
- Listen to get the other person’s perspective: In the midst of conflict is someone being unheard or listened to. All parties involved must learn to actively listen to understand each other’s perspectives. It is important to let go of the need to control the narrative
- Improve your communication skills: It is just as important to consider what you want to say and how you want to say it. Everyone within the organization must learn to speak respectfully and present issues from a value perspective, rather than with complaints or criticism.
- Display empathy: Empathetic employers and employees make for a peaceful organization. Putting yourself in another person’s shoes can be a strong guide when dealing with workplace issues.
- Do not take things personally: Your job is what you do and not who you are. Comments on the job must remain that and must reflect opportunities for improvement and growth, not be an indictment of the person.
- Seek mediation: If all else fails, seek professional mediation to help sort out issues. For managers, ensure that organizations have conflict resolution practices in place. Early intervention is the key to supporting employees who are not coping in the workplace as unaddressed conflicts significantly affect one’s overall well-being.
Failing to manage workplace conflict has deleterious effects, not just on the organization but on employees. It can lead to bouts of insomnia, depression, anxiety, fear, sleeplessness and overthinking. Consequently, this leads to absenteeism, poor work engagement, decreased productivity, increased turnover and a general sense of dissatisfaction within the organization. However, if it is effectively managed, the benefits include toxic-free workplaces, increased work enthusiasm & lower levels of stress and anxiety.