With companies striving harder to excel beyond the competition, the high pressure and innovation required from workers may come with some negative consequences.

Many companies find developing workgroups encourages competitive thinking and problem-solving that improves intra-company invention and productivity. While these workgroups often have specific tasks and goals, they often overlap in key areas that can create conflict. While some conflicts can be healthy, too much conflict or the wrong types of conflict can be debilitating to the productivity of a company.

Being Number One

Workgroups are often rewarded based on combined efforts that show specific and practical results. These rewards come in the form of direct recognition, portfolio amendments, vacation time or days off, or an increase in pay or bonuses. Who wouldn’t want these? Well, the question should be to what lengths do people go through to get these rewards?

Coworkers will often resort to intercepting email, memos, or phone calls, spying at meetings, breakrooms and restrooms, stealing designs and ideas, and even applying personal pressure to individuals or making threats. These behaviors lead to distrust, fear, and anxiety; people always looking over their shoulders. Certainly, the drive to be the “number one group” can create a place of questionable work ethic and conflict.

Guys versus Gals and Young versus Old

Statistics prove that mixed work environments produce stronger and more balanced results when it comes to productivity.

Yet, today, we have the battle of the sexes, organizing workgroups based on gender. In the background, another battle ensues — based on age; experience versus youth. There is tremendous insight in older age wisdom and there much to gain from the unclouded energy of the young, the best of both worlds are often pitted against each other. These “us versus them” arrangements create unnecessary stereotyping and disrespectful interaction that is not conducive to an innovative workgroup.

Guys versus Gals - Intergroup Conflict in the Workplace

The Time Clock

There are groups that work harder and those that work smarter. The age-old belief that if you work longer you worked harder is being replaced by those who embrace working smarter. Resentment has always existed in the workplace, based on who worked the longest and who actually works the hardest. When one group is consistently putting in longer hours, resentment builds about work ethic, worker value, and tracking of hours, all contributing to poor worker morale and in-feuding.

Behavior Unbecoming

The riskiest by far is conduct that is unbecoming in the workplace, harassment. Much of intergroup conflict stems from behavior and demeanor that involves direct and indirect harassment. Maybe it was in the form of a joke, a comment about a movie scene, a statement about a famous person, but in the presence of others in the work environment, it can create tension that does not promote healthy working relationships.

Comments of sexual nature should never be a topic of discussion in a workgroup. There are many topics today, including, gender, religion, and politics, that are better left for home. Harassment often goes unreported in groups, whether it is to protect the one harassing or to avoid being labeled a traitor by the others in the workgroup.

Mitigating Conflict

Conflict can be avoided by creating an intergroup contract of behavior and expectations. These are rules concerning how the groups are structured, the hours required to work, the ethical and moral guidelines protecting the intelligence of others and honoring the contributions of all in the group.

It can also include how groups interact with one another in formal and informal settings. Mitigating conflict ensures that intergroup productivity is enhanced, and that workers learn to work together in a variety of circumstances while maximizing what everyone in the workgroup has to offer.

If you need more information about what is intergroup conflict, what are causes of intergroup conflict, or have questions about similar topics, get in touch with Dr. Marsha Ferrick, today!

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