Survey: One-fifth of workers rate the conflict they encountered as 'very serious'

As with stress, conflict can be good or bad, focusing energy on constructive or destructive pursuits. Important factors to be aware of concerning workplace conflict include the subject and "volume" of the conflict; the "players" and their relationship to each other; whether conflict is persistent, infrequent, or episodic; and how it is resolved.

A recent survey by global recruiting firm FindEmployment, reveals some interesting data on the frequency, intensity, and source of these factors: 74% of employees report they have experienced conflict during the course of their career. Nearly half (43%) of respondents rated the conflict as "minor," with 37% stating the strife was "medium," and one fifth (20%) noting they had experienced "very serious" conflict at work.

The majority of employees have clashed with a colleague, with almost half (46%) admitting they have had a fight with a coworker. Seventeen out of every 100 workers have had a battle with their boss, and a rather surprising 14% have exchanged heated words with a client of their company.

Blame the Other Guy

When questioned about who instigated the conflict, a large number of respondents blamed their coworker (39%). Almost one fifth (19%) accuse their boss as being the cause of the disagreement. Twelve percent insist it was their client's fault, with only 9% admitting that they bore responsibility for the confrontation.

A minor disagreement was identified by 28% of respondents as the most common event that led to the conflict. Almost a quarter (24%) noted that work-related stress was the biggest contributing factor. Eighteen percent of employees cited a continuously hostile working environment as the trigger for their battle, while 12% believe an accumulation of previous tensions contributed to the aggression.

"The demands of the modern job market mean that employees are often working long hours under stressful conditions for many different reasons, such as fear of losing their jobs during a recession or to meet deadlines to ensure their company stays competitive," says James Weaver, director of FindEmployment. "It is natural that managers and coworkers will clash occasionally, but it is important to find a more constructive outlet for tension or stress that does not result in aggression in the workplace. Ultimately managers should establish practices and policies in their company to limit the buildup of pressure for all parties involved, including themselves."