Luke Carrangis is our resident psychologist here at Gisborne Health Essentials. Here, Luke talks about workplace conflict and the challenges it brings. It presents in various ways, but psychologists can help.
Originally published here, this article has been republished with permission.
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.
A number of people who seek therapy present with symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress due to problems in the workplace.
What does workplace conflict look like?
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.
- 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, a psychologist will be able to give you techniques and strategies to help manage these conflicts and deal with stresses.
One of the most important ways 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.