Vanessa believes that “it is important that leaders carefully manage such individuals. Left without intervention, people with toxic personalities can cause immeasurable damage to the happiness and productivity of the entire team.”
Estimates show that over 94% of employees have encountered at least one toxic personality at the workplace during their career. Vanessa adds “If you have somebody with this personality type on your team, conflict resolution is likely to involve more than just a sit down and chat.” Dealing with toxic coworkers may require the management to rearrange teams or other disciplinary measures.
Coping with toxic teammates? Read Toxic Coworkers: Dealing With 7 Most Dangerous Work Personalities
Understanding conflict in the workplace
Conflict refers to negative feelings like anger, revulsion, contempt, anxiety & fear between groups or people in teams or relationships. However, conflict in the workplace is widely associated with office politics, disrespect, aggression, betrayal, ineffective management and dysfunctional communication. When left unresolved, conflict tends to escalate and intensify which may affect the entire workplace.
Did you know that conflict in the workplace can cost around $359 billion in lost time?
Moreover, a study conducted by the American Management Association (AMA) revealed that managers tend to spend around 24% of their time in managing conflict. That is time which is not spent productively nor is there any guarantee that it will lead to healthy conflict resolution.
There is no doubt that workplace conflict can severely affect productivity and business functions. But what triggers such a type of behavior? Vanessa Van Edwards believes the following triggers may be at play:
- Lack of effective communication
- Changes in the organization
- Excessive work pressure
- Lack of understanding
- Personality clashes
- Lack of established jurisdiction
- Conflict of interests
Unfortunately, as conflict intensifies, it completely ruins effective communication among the members of the team, leading to aggression, abuse, bullying, confrontation, rumors and other damaging behaviors.
However, understanding conflict and why it takes place can help us to manage it and prevent it from arising in the future. Vanessa suggests “Learning the psychology behind workplace conflict and why it occurs is the biggest weapon you can have to protect yourself and your team when it inevitably arises.”
Is work leaving you drained? Read 6 Hacks To Be Happier At Work, Backed By Science
The psychology of workplace conflict
Throughout human evolution, we have experienced innumerable conflicts over essential resources that have allowed us to survive and thrive. Hence, our conflict response system has evolved to protect us and ensure that we survive.
Vanessa writes “Inside our brain, we have two amygdala. They sit behind our eyes, and work in a way comparable to an intruder alarm by raising the alarm in response to danger.” The amygdala alerts us when there is a threat and leads to a series of chemical releases, like cortisol and adrenaline.This process is known as the fight or flight mechanism or the stress response.
Vanessa adds “While defending our home from wolves might be a threat long lost to our ancestors’ history, protecting our reputation in front of our boss elicits exactly the same response.” When we get ready to run towards or away from our enemy or the threat, several unconscious, physical changes occur in us. However, the changes inside the brain is perhaps the most crucial. “The activation of the amygdala shuts down the brain’s pathway to the prefrontal cortex – the part of your brain responsible for making complex and rational decisions,” writes Vanessa.
Too much negativity around you? Read How to Stay Positive around Negative People
How our brain works during conflict may offer us a profound understanding why we react the way we do and how we can better manage conflict.
How to manage conflict in the workplace
When conflict is starting to affect your productivity and the effectiveness of your team it’s time for you to implement effective conflict management strategies. “Conflict management is a series of methods and techniques that leaders and managers (or anyone else) can use to handle problems that arise within the team,” says author Vanessa Van Edwards.