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Colleagues and Conflict:
A Roadmap for Dealing with Animosity in the Workplace

See also: Conflict Resolution

When two employees dislike each other, their animosity can turn a pleasant working atmosphere into a toxic work environment.

Conflict between colleagues is inevitable and occurs in most businesses.

You can’t be everybody’s best friend but you do, however, need to be affable and able to work as a team. The longer the animosity between employees continues, the more it will affect their productivity and the entire work environment.

Handling employee conflict in a well-timed manner is essential to maintain a healthy work atmosphere. Believing that conflict will merely vanish is an incorrect assumption because simple conflicts can develop into major complications if not dealt with correctly.

We will look at some workplace conflicts and how they can be resolved to create a harmonious work environment.

Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.

Ronald Reagan

Poor Communication in the Workplace

Lack of communication is one of the main reasons for conflict between employees in the workplace.

This could be because of a dissimilarity in communication styles or a failure to communicate. For instance, a manager might have redistributed an employee’s assignment to the employee’s colleague but didn’t communicate the reassignment to the employee. This might cause the employee to feel offended, which can turn into animosity amongst the employees and the manager.

Poor communication in the workplace might cause employees to make inappropriate assumptions and believe workplace rumours. A lack of communication in the workplace not only causes animosity but also diminishes productivity and employee confidence.

People work better when they know exactly what is expected of them.

Great managers classify objectives and procedures in simple, explicable terms, allocate responsibility clearly, and confirm that everything is understood by the employees. Managers should also follow up and provide helpful input to make sure that each of his or her subordinates has the same goal in mind. By doing this, communication will improve and animosity in the workplace will decrease.

Difference in Temperaments and Personalities

A difference in temperaments among employees can be another cause of animosity in the workplace.

Employees come from diverse upbringings and experiences, and this will play a part in influencing their personalities. When employees fail to recognise or accept the diversity in each other's personalities, difficulties arise in the workplace.

For instance, an employee might possess a direct or confrontational personality where they might speak whatever is on their mind, even if the timing is inappropriate.

An employee with an outspoken personality might offend a colleague who does not have that type of personality. The colleague might feel as if the employee is rude, which can lead to animosity.

Allow employees to embrace personality differences and strong points, and inspire other employees to do the same. When employees identify and appreciate each other's dissimilarities, they will start to act more respectfully when working together. By allowing and teaching employees to accept personality differences, you will start to create a non-judgmental atmosphere which will increase the expression of ideas and reduce workplace animosity.

Different Principles and Value Systems

Comparable to personalities, the values or beliefs of employees vary within the workplace.

A dissimilarity in values is seen clearly when a generational gap exists. Young employees might have different workplace beliefs from older employees. The difference in values is not essentially the cause of employee animosity in the workplace, but failing to accept the differences is.

When employees fail to consent to these differences, colleagues might attack each other's character and value systems. When insults take place, the conflict increases until the correct resolution is presented and accepted. Difficulties can also arise from opposing thought processes and communication styles of employees born in different periods. The frictions might be intensified by technological changes and work arrangements that mix employees of different ages.

Employers and managers should give all employees a voice. Irrespective of age and occupation, all employees should have a platform in which to offer ideas, worries and grievances. Managers should expedite open communication within the office and set aside time to offer direct feedback. By allowing employees a platform, they will start to accept each other’s values, which will in turn decrease workplace animosity.

Competition in the Workplace

In business, when two people always agree, one of them is irrelevant.

William Wrigley

Unhealthy competition in the workplace is another source of employee animosity and conflict.

Some businesses promote a competitive setting more than others. When salary is associated with employee productivity, there may be strong rivalry between colleagues. Competition that is not correctly supervised can result in employees disrupting or insulting each other, which produces an aggressive work atmosphere. Unhealthy workplace competition dampens communication and stimulates individualism.

If competition within the workplace is healthy, it will be valuable for the company. Healthy competition encourages employees to be industrious and proficient, while fostering companionship amongst them. This is in stark difference to unhealthy competition, which produces a tense and pressure-packed atmosphere that encourages in-fighting among colleagues. As the manager or owner, it is up to you to use motivational methods (i.e. offer encouragement and praise) or offer incentive packages (i.e. advancement, increase in salary, extra benefits) to inspire your employees to always offer their best in the workplace while still preserving a good rapport with their colleagues.


A company culture is built on how everybody relates with one another.

Owners, directors and managers should pave the way forward and set the tone on how employees communicate and interact with each other. By conversing with your employees in an authentic and respectful manner, you produce an atmosphere that values honesty and communication. When you are open and authentic, employees are expected to do the same. Employees don’t have to be the best of friends, they just have to complete the job.

A certain degree of creative tension is always encouraged in most businesses, but the instant that conflict turns into animosity and becomes counterproductive, you need to act. While the disputes that cause conflict differ in importance, your relations to employees and the relationships among colleagues must be affable and productive if you hope to have a productive atmosphere and eliminate animosity within the workplace.

About the Author

This article was written by Stephen Pritchard from Adzuna.co.uk, a website that aims to help jobseekers find better jobs with smarter search.