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Review Analyzes Impact of Conflict and Stress on the Workplace

Pollack Peacebuilding by Jeremy Pollack

Summary of:

Novikova-Kalita, E., Ermasova, N. and Gluchova, M. (2020). Conflicts and stress management. Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance

Background & Theory:

With the advent of COVID-19, workplace conflict and stress have become front of mind problems for many organizations. This literature review examines the role of workplace conflict and work-related stress, offering ways to positively cope with the negative outcomes conflict and stress can emit in our lives.


Research was conducted by Elena Novikova-Kalita et al. to answer the following questions:

    1. What roles do conflict play in the workplace?
    2. What roles do stress play in the workplace?
    3. What are some positive coping mechanisms for dealing with workplace conflict and work-related stress?


14 past research studies were analyzed to form this literature review on workplace conflict, conflict management, work-related stress, and stress management. The studies all come out of a Russian context.


Workplace conflict and work-related stress can either have positive or negative effects on employees. In the short-term, workplace conflict among employees can inspire greater innovation. Short-term workplace conflict can be seen as a necessary dysfunction in the workplace that benefits the organization through innovation and creativity. Similarly, short-term stress can produce greater productivity among employees. For example, setting a deadline may put a healthy amount of stress on employees to complete their work.

However, workplace conflict and work-related stress have the potential to be destructive. Workplace conflict, when not managed or handled well, can lead to greater employee stress, increased absenteeism, greater turnover, reduced productivity, decreased performance, and less organizational profitability. The studies examined in this literature review focused specifically on how unclear roles and competing demands at work can create conflict for employees. These studies show the importance of employees learning and applying conflict resolution methods within their organizations. Learning these methods can make the difference between conflict being constructive or destructive.

Work-related stress can be destructive when sudden changes occur in working conditions with decreased support from colleagues, family, and leaders. If prolonged, stress can seriously negatively affect the employee, both physically and emotionally. Stress can show up through frequent headaches, insomnia, increased interpersonal conflict, and increased loneliness among other things. Employees can also engage in negative coping mechanisms such as binging food, alcohol, or the internet, which often retain and cause more stress.

As an alternative to negative coping mechanisms, positive coping mechanisms can be used to deal with work-related stress in a healthy way. These can include eating healthy, getting regular exercise, sleeping adequately, and having enough positive social interaction. Social support is specifically helpful for dealing with work-related stress, as it has been found to buffer the relationship between work events and stress. In addition to these healthy coping mechanisms, keeping a positive attitude, recognizing there are some things you do not have control over, and being assertive (instead of aggressive or passive) about your needs have also been shown to be helpful in dealing with stress.

What We Can Learn:

Looking over this research, we can take away the following key insight:

  • Workplace conflict and work-related stress have the ability to be beneficial or harmful to employees and organizations. Learning conflict resolution methods and incorporating positive coping mechanisms into your life can be helpful in mitigating the destructive potential of workplace conflict and work-related stress.

Final Takeaways

For Consultants: Incorporating stress-reducing activities into trainings and coaching may help employees start incorporating both conflict resolution skills and positive coping mechanisms in their lives.

For Everyone: If you feel stressed-out from work during COVID-19, make sure to take time for yourself and incorporate healthy coping mechanisms into your life.


Noah Shaw

Noah Shaw has a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communication from Pepperdine University and is currently earning his Masters in Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution. At Pepperdine, Noah has experience in mediating conflict and responding to crisis situations in his role as an Assistant Resident… MORE >

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