Examining the connection between workplace conflict, burnout, and mental health, and providing recommendations for using conflict resolution strategies to prevent and address burnout in the Canadian workforce

When workplace stress and burnout are not appropriately addressed and resolved, it can create a toxic environment that prevents conflict resolution. Employees may be wary of trusting others and resentful of their organizational role. In severe cases, workplace harassment or even assault may even occur, leading to more serious ramifications for the organization, its clients, and its employees. Employers must act swiftly and address issues as soon as they arise to prevent any lasting damage to the work environment.

Burnout looms large in the bustling landscapes of the modern North American workforce, often exacerbated by unresolved workplace conflicts. This article will delve into the intricate connection between workplace conflict, burnout, and mental health. We will explore recommendations for leveraging conflict resolution strategies to prevent and address burnout in the contemporary work environment.

Understanding the burnout phenomenon

Burnout is not merely a consequence of excessive workload but is intricately linked to workplace dynamics, including unresolved conflicts. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is characterized by feelings of energy depletion, reduced professional efficacy, and increased mental distance from one’s job.

“In all 15 countries and across all dimensions assessed, toxic workplace behaviour was the biggest predictor of burnout symptoms and intent to leave by a large margin—predicting more than 60 percent of the total global variance. For positive outcomes (including work engagement, job satisfaction, and organization advocacy), the impact of factors assessed was more distributed—with inclusivity and belonging, supportive growth environment, sustainable work, and freedom from stigma predicting most outcomes.” Addressing employee burnout: Are you solving the right problem? McKinsey Health Institute, May 2022.

The nexus between conflict and burnout

Unresolved workplace conflicts contribute significantly to burnout. A study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that employees experiencing persistent conflicts at work were more likely to report symptoms of burnout, including emotional exhaustion and depersonalization.

Impact on mental health

Workplace conflicts, if left unaddressed, can take a toll on mental health. Chronic workplace stress, often stemming from conflicts, is linked to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, all of which are contributors to burnout. Furthermore, researchers have identified exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy as three key dimensions of the burnout experience.

According to the latest Limeade Employee Care Report on the Great Resignation, 40% of employees cite burnout as a top reason for leaving their jobs. A recent study by MindGym found that in early 2021, the number of newly appointed chief executives was more than double the previous six months. Development Dimensions International’s study in the Global Leadership Forecast 2021 revealed the following:

  • 60% of leaders reported feeling drained at the end of the workday
  • Of those 60%, approximately 44% of leaders expected to change companies to advance, and 26% expected to leave within the next year
  • Merely 20% of surveyed leaders believed they were effective at leading virtually

Conflict resolution as a burnout prevention tool

Implementing effective conflict resolution strategies is not just a reactive measure but a proactive approach to preventing burnout. The Association for Psychological Science suggests that addressing conflicts early can interrupt the cycle of stress and contribute to a healthier work environment.

Stressed and burnout that is ignored can lead to troubling workplace environments and frustrated, hopeless employees. As a result, conflict can arise and disrupt your organization’s productivity. If your organization is facing conflict as a result of employee burnout and do not know where to get started to address these issues, it may be time to consult a third-party professional.

Discover our Mediation and Investigation services to better understand how we can help you reach conflict resolution in your workplace.

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Communication as a key antidote

Effective communication is at the heart of conflict resolution. Encouraging open and transparent communication channels can help identify and address conflicts before they escalate, mitigating stressors contributing to burnout.

Proactive conflict training

Provide conflict resolution training to employees and leadership. Equip them with the skills to identify, manage, and resolve conflicts constructively. A well-trained workforce is more adept at handling disagreements in a way that minimizes negative impacts on well-being.

Encouraging a supportive culture

Foster a workplace culture that values support and collaboration. When employees feel supported, they are more likely to address conflicts constructively rather than internalize stress, which can contribute to burnout.

Flexible work arrangements

Recognize the impact of workplace flexibility on conflict and burnout. According to a study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, flexible work arrangements contribute to better work-life balance, reducing stress and burnout.

Confidential conflict resolution resources

Provide confidential avenues for employees to seek assistance in resolving conflicts. This can include third-party mediation services, employee assistance programs, creating safe spaces for conflict resolution.

Periodic conflict assessments

Conduct regular assessments of workplace dynamics to identify potential conflict hotspots. A proactive approach to conflict resolution involves staying ahead of issues and addressing them before they evolve into sources of burnout.

The Takeaway

In the pursuit of a healthier and more productive workforce, addressing burnout through conflict resolution is not just a strategic choice but a moral imperative. By recognizing the intricate connection between workplace conflict, burnout, and mental health, and implementing proactive conflict resolution strategies, organizations can foster an environment that prioritizes the well-being of its employees, ultimately contributing to a more vibrant and sustainable work culture in North America and beyond.

If your organization is experiencing roadblocks in finding effective ways to manage workplace conflict and needs professional investigation or mediation services, consulting with a neutral third party will help resolve distracting, challenging situations and empower all participants to settle on an agreeable solution that propels your organization forward.

At Global Mindful Solutions, we have established processes that aim to provide insightful, comprehensive solutions with a compassionate and unbiased approach. This allows everyone involved to focus on returning to work and continue to make a positive contribution to their organization while leading fulfilling roles in their careers.

Contact Global Mindful Solutions for neutral, knowledgeable, and effective mediation, facilitation, and restoration services.


613-869-9130 | info@globalmindfulsolutions.com

343 Preston Street, Suite 1100, Ottawa, ON, K1S 1N4

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