5 Most Common Conflicts in the Workplace HR Must Resolve

Last Updated: 

February 29, 2024

Where people work together, there’s conflict. It’s simply human nature. Workplace conflicts can range from minor personality clashes to serious reports of discrimination and abuse. Human resources are critical to resolving workplace conflicts effectively, safely, and appropriately.

No one wants to work in a tense, aggressive, or uncomfortable environment. No organisation wants to be embroiled in legal issues. That’s why HR leaders must know how to resolve workplace conflicts.

If your organisation doesn’t have a fully staffed human resources department with experienced HR specialists, consider working with an outsourced HR consultant. This expert will prevent legal issues from workplace conflicts.

Here are the most common conflicts to expect in your organisation.

Key Takeaways on Common Workplace Conflicts:

  1. Personality Conflicts: Workplace harmony can be disrupted by varying personality types and leadership styles. Proactive management through active listening, emphasising respect, and finding compromises is essential to resolve these conflicts.
  2. Leadership Conflicts: Differences in leadership styles within teams or between leaders and their teams can lead to challenges. HR intervention is crucial when communication breaks down, conflicts become personal, or morale and organisational success are impacted.
  3. Creative Conflicts: Creative tensions, while not inherently negative, may arise when individuals have differing ideas. Encouraging collaboration, agreement to disagree, compromise, and consensus-building is key to managing and leveraging creative conflicts for innovation.
  4. Discrimination Concerns: HR plays a pivotal role in addressing discrimination reports, particularly related to age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or other protected classes. Unbiased investigations and discrimination training can mitigate risks and ensure a respectful workplace.
  5. Sexual Harassment Resolution: Sexual harassment claims require immediate and serious attention. HR should handle complaints with urgency, conduct thorough investigations, and show zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour to create a safe and comfortable work environment.
  6. Inter-Departmental Conflicts: Collaboration challenges among different departments are common. HR, as a fair and unbiased mediator, can resolve these conflicts by promoting collaboration, facilitating team communication, and aligning everyone with common business goals.
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Personality Conflicts

No two people are the same, and you will face challenges when multiple personality types work together. Personality conflicts often occur with differing leadership styles.

Personality conflicts will occur repeatedly. They’ll crop up in all departments, on all teams. HR specialists must equip the organisation’s leaders with the tools and guidance to manage these small conflicts independently.

Active listening to all parties involved is important so everyone feels heard. Respect for one another should be emphasised in these situations. Compromises should be found.

Leadership Conflicts

Conflicts may arise between leaders and those who report to them. Some people might work more effectively when managed with certain leadership styles than others. Conflict is bound to occur in teams and within groups of colleagues, too, as work styles differ just as much as leadership styles.

While some leaders are strict and task-driven, others are laid back and open. Others still are bold and charismatic visionaries. When these types of leaders come together to collaborate on business objectives, there’s no doubt there will be some challenges.

Some employees work best under pressure and procrastinate, but others may feel less stress from excessive planning and project management. While some colleagues are eager to book meetings for collaboration, others prefer to work alone.

However, HR should get involved if there is a breakdown in communication between leaders and their teams, employees are threatening to quit, conflicts are becoming personal, or conflicts are affecting morale and organisational success.

Creative Conflicts

Creative conflicts aren’t necessarily unproductive - they can often lead to improvements, innovation, and necessary change. These types of tension occur when organisational people have different ideas or goals. Because the parties involved can be passionate about creative conflicts, they can be difficult to resolve.

The key here is not to make decisions that end the conflict but to encourage the parties involved to work together to agree to disagree, compromise, and reach a consensus.


While departmental leaders can usually diffuse tense situations arising from personality, work style, and leadership style conflicts, HR should deal with other concerns directly.

A report of discrimination can lead to legal issues, particularly due to age, race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or other protected classes. It must be handled appropriately, professionally, and seriously.

An unbiased, objective investigation should be launched into any discrimination report. Further, discrimination training may be provided for all employees to reduce their risk of complaints and future legal action.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is another serious workplace conflict that should be brought to HR for resolution. The situation must be managed as a top priority to show potential victims that inappropriate sexual behaviour will not be tolerated.

Treat the complainant respectfully and open-mindedly, regardless of reputation, circumstances, seniority, or prior complaints. Create detailed notes, including dates, times, witnesses, behaviours, etc. Launch an official investigation following the organisation’s established procedures. If none exist, contact HR consultants for outside help.

Treating sexual harassment claims with severity and urgency will ensure that everyone in the organization feels safe and comfortable at work. It can also lower legal action risk.

Inter-Departmental Conflicts

Inter-departmental disagreements are common in business, yet they can have detrimental effects. Organisations are more likely to meet their goals and succeed if everyone works together toward a common objective.

However, tension is not uncommon when different departments have to work together. Departments often have different goals, opportunities, and challenges, making collaboration difficult. Some department heads may resent or distrust others due to uneven support and resources.

Again, some of these conflicts can come down to personality classes - the analytical minds in the finance department may be more likely to clash with the creative minds of marketing leaders, for example.

Inter-departmental conflicts often reach HR. HR often resolves these issues because they are fair and unbiased. There is no one way to handle these conflicts. However, rewarding collaboration, enabling team communication, and creating business goals everyone can agree on and work toward can help.

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