Common Causes of Workplace Conflict


  • Identify the common causes of workplace conflict.
  • Understand how communication breakdown can lead to conflict.
  • Examine how competing interests and personality clashes contribute to workplace discord.

Communication Breakdown

One of the most prevalent causes of workplace conflict is a breakdown in communication. Here’s how it manifests:

  • Ambiguity: Lack of clear instructions or expectations can lead to misunderstandings and ultimately, conflict.
  • Information Hoarding: When team members withhold information, either intentionally or unintentionally, it can create tension and mistrust among colleagues.
  • Poor Listening Skills: Not actively listening to others can lead to misunderstandings and make the other person feel undervalued, sparking conflict.
  • Non-Verbal Cues: Sometimes, it’s not what you say but how you say it. Body language, tone, and facial expressions can also contribute to misunderstandings.

Competing Interests

Conflicts often arise when team members have competing interests. Here are some typical scenarios:

  • Resource Allocation: Disagreements over how resources like time, budget, or manpower are allocated can lead to conflict.
  • Goal Misalignment: When team members have different objectives or priorities, it can create friction as each tries to steer the project in their direction.
  • Performance Metrics: If employees are evaluated based on different or conflicting performance metrics, it can lead to competition rather than collaboration.
  • Political Maneuvering: Sometimes, team members may engage in office politics to gain an advantage, which can create conflict among colleagues.

Personality Clashes

Sometimes, conflict arises simply because of differences in personality. Here’s how:

  • Work Styles: Different people have different approaches to work. Some may prefer a structured environment, while others thrive in a more flexible setting. These differences can lead to conflict if not managed well.
  • Values and Beliefs: Conflicting values or beliefs can also be a source of tension. For example, one team member may prioritize work-life balance while another is solely focused on career advancement.
  • Ego Battles: Sometimes, conflicts arise from a struggle for dominance or recognition within the team.
  • Emotional Intelligence: A lack of emotional intelligence can exacerbate personality clashes, as individuals may not be equipped to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.


Understanding the common causes of workplace conflict is the first step in resolving them effectively. Whether it’s a breakdown in communication, competing interests, or personality clashes, being aware of these triggers can help in preempting conflicts and managing them when they do occur.

Common Causes of Workplace Conflict