Workplace Conflict: Why It’s So Tricky Now and What To Do About It

Navigating Workplace Conflict is Getting Harder: Here’s What You Can Do

The workforce has been through unprecedented change in the last few years—for better and worse. Stress, disengagement, quiet quitting, and mass resignations… Has all the rapid change led to more workplace conflict? Is conflict wearing us all down? At what cost?

A Glimpse into the World Workplace Conflict and Collaboration Survey Results

workplace conflict survey results

We surveyed 5000+ full-time workers in over 45 countries and in all 50 United States. It turns out workplace conflict is becoming more of an issue everywhere you go.

70% of participants report the same or more conflict over the last few years.


Tired Workers in a Tired Economy

Of course, the reasons are complex. The pandemic-inspired shift to remote work and hybrid teams left many people longing for deeper human connection. Many organizations are still wrestling with the new reality of remote and hybrid workforces.

Managers are relearning how to lead and support their teams. Teams are figuring out how to build meaningful relationships and get work done. These rapid changes and missing human connections fuel conflict.

As mask mandates, stay-at-home orders, and online-only schooling fade into the rearview mirror, it’s easy to forget the pandemic’s disruption in nearly every aspect of life. But the COVID-19 pandemic traumatized many people and left scars.

The social isolation bruised our psyches. “Choosing our bubble” of people created “us” and “them” dynamics that politics and social media made worse. For many, the pandemic’s hypervigilance, anxiety, and stress created lasting mental health challenges.

For others, the resentment of mandates and loss of personal freedoms created another kind of fear and anxiety.

Take the increase in anxiety, stress, and depression, mix in the loss of human relationships, and you get more workplace conflict. And it’s more intense.

The Escape Hatch…

You know what’s also interesting?

Of the 30% who reported less conflict, nearly half of those say it’s because they (or the people they were in conflict with) changed jobs, or they’re working remotely.

That’s not necessarily a sign we’re getting better at conflict, just escaping it—and potentially losing out on the innovation and problem-solving that comes from learning to do conflict well.

What advice would you give yourself if faced with this situation again?

Imagine the last time you found yourself in a destructive workplace conflict. What advice would you give your former self if you faced this workplace conflict again?

The most common theme in our research?

Stay Calm. 55% of participants advised: “Be patient/stay calm.” Closely followed by advice related to speaking up, talking about it, and addressing the problem head-on.

“Be the bigger person. Talk about it.” — Nonbinary, 37, South Africa

Advice for conflict

“Stay calm.” — Female, 23, Vietnam

The good news is these skills can be taught, nurtured, and celebrated in organizations. No matter what kind of workplace conflict you face, four dimensions make it more productive and less destructive: Connection, clarity, curiosity, and commitment.

constructive conflict

Learn More About our Workplace Conflict Research

You can learn more about our World Workplace Conflict and Collaboration Research by downloading our FREE summary here.

Related: Why So Many Managers Tolerate Poor Performance (And What To Do Instead)