Dealing with workplace conflict

Feb 14, 2017

Have you ever had a conflict at work?

Maybe a coworker who seems to always cross the line, or perhaps a manager who refuses to help you with a stressful workload?

While it may be possible to walk away from negative people in other areas of life, often when there is a conflict at work it is almost a daily problem in which people can feel trapped between their source of stable income and an environment which is causing significant distress.

Our psychologists at Mindview have felt that a number of people who come to our clinic have presented with symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress due to problems at the workplace.

Before we discuss some of the ways we can treat workplace conflict, it’s important to give some examples of what a work conflict may look-like and how it impacts on our lives.

These include:

  • A co-worker who is often rude or mean to you
  • A manager who ignores your requests for help and tells you to get on with your unreasonable workload
  • Unhappy clients/customers who may abuse or belittle you
  • A personality clash with a fellow employee (‘I just don’t like them!’)
  • Feeling as though your decisions, plans or contributions are never taken seriously
  • Any form of physical, verbal, or sexual harassment

Research has found that workplace conflict often leads to stress (here are a few open access publications). But, this stress can also lead to more negative outcomes at work. For example, not only did a study by Motowidlo, Packard and Manning (1986) find that stressful events at work can lead to depression, but that this in turn can lead to poor social skills and motivation at work.

This may mean that when a person becomes stressed at work due to a personal conflict, this stress may cause a decrease in their social and coping skills, making work with that difficult co-worker even harder. Or, in another scenario, a person struggling at work may come under fire from a demanding manager to perform better. But, this aggression in turn may make the person feel unhappy and undervalued, making that work even harder to be motivated about.

Sometimes, the stress and unhappiness from these conflicts may be difficult to contain just to work, spilling over into personal relationships at home.

How can seeing a psychologist help this?

In terms of overcoming a conflict in the workplace, if you have been unable or uncomfortable to deal with it through your normal coping channels, counselling may be beneficial. The environment of a safe, open and non-judgemental session of therapy may allow you to express and experience the thoughts and feelings you are unable to show at work. 

Furthermore, our psychologists will be able to give you techniques and strategies to help manage these conflicts and deal with stresses.

One of the most important ways our psychologists believe in dealing with workplace conflict is to achieve a better work-life balance.

This is more than just spending more time at home and less time at work.

It’s about identifying who you are as a person and what you want to do with your life, and then taking these values and comparing them to how your life is at the current moment. If there’s a significant difference between the two, then both client and psychologist can work together to overcome this.

However, if you are ready to already start thinking about your work-life balance, we’ve included some resources below to help. These may be particularly helpful as preparation for your first session of therapy.


Quality of Life

How do you know if you have a good work-life balance?

One free and reputable scale called the World Health Organization Quality of Life (WHOQOL) is available for free here.

While the scoring may be confusing, you don’t necessarily have to add it up yourself for it to be useful. For example, the test asks you a number of questions about how you feel about yourself and your life. These questions may allow you to highlight particular areas you would like to work on and discuss in therapy.


In therapy you’ll be asked a lot of questions about yourself, some of these you may have never thought of yourself!

By taking the time to think over some of these questions, you may be able to have a better idea of where you are at before you begin therapy.

Some of these questions may include:

  • Why have I decided to seek help?
  • What do you think you need to feel better?
  • If you didn’t have anxiety/depression/stress how would you want to live your life?
  • What do you think would have to change for you to feel better?
  • When do you think your problems started?
  • How is this issue negatively affecting my life?
  • What are the barriers that are holding me back from managing this conflict?
  • If i put myself in the shoes of the person/people i’m in conflict with I would feel?
  • Are there any old patterns from my past that are impacting me now?

In addition to this, feel free to write down and think about any other questions you might have about your current situation and bring them to the first session.

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