Workplace Conflict: Is the workplace itself part of the problem?


We recently received a very interesting infographic from the University of Southern California (USC) on the psychology of different office spaces.

We know that workplace stress can have long-lasting negative consequences on employees. Long hours, unrealistic demands, and looming layoffs can lead to personal health problems in addition to increased workplace conflict. However, these problems can be even worse when the workplace itself is a part of the problem.

Office design trends can seem arbitrary at times, but they can have a substantial psychological impact on employees. This is why office spaces around the world have changed rapidly in the past century: to meet the diverse, evolving needs of new generations of workers.

Too many distractions in open floor plans can lead to cognitive overload for some employees, and those isolated in cubicles may feel that collaboration is being discouraged despite the employer’s intentions. More tangible problems such as air quality and lighting can lower worker satisfaction, consequently increasing the odds of office conflict.

We have seen a number of workplace mediation cases in recent years where the conflict related specifically to the office environment. These difficult conversations were often to do with a staff member being unhappy with where they were siting because it made them feel isolated and therefore not part of the team, or because where they were sitting made them feel that they were not a valued member of the team.

Additionally, new generations of employees are increasingly demanding greater freedom in choosing when, where, and how they work. To meet these needs, top tech employers are offering innovative office spaces that allow their employees greater freedom in how they work.

In the infographic below, produced by USC Dornsife’s Applied Psychology Program, you can learn about how office spaces have evolved to meet the needs of employees today, along with specific examples from the offices of Google, Facebook, Mozilla, and more.

It is important to think about how workplace environments impact employees’ wellbeing and the potential this has to cause workplace conflict.


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