Conflict in the office happens. It is defined as “any workplace disagreement that disrupts the flow of work”. Conflict is inevitable whenever you put people with different personalities, backgrounds, and expectations, etc. in the same space. Since most people dislike conflict, they often ignore disagreements between employees. Ignoring the smaller issues or brushing them under the rug can cause them to fester and escalate into full-scale issues. Do you know what conflict in your workplace is costing you…?
Based on a study commissioned by the Myers-Briggs Company:
- U.S. employees spend 2.1 hours per week involved with conflict, which amounts to approximately $359 billion in paid hours (based on an average hourly earnings of $17.95), or the equivalent of 385 million working days.
- 85% of employees experience some kind of conflict
- 34% of workplace conflict happens among employees on the front line
- 12% of employees say they often see conflict within the senior team
- 49% of workplace conflict happens as a result of personality clashes and egos
- 34% of workplace conflict is a result of workplace stress
- 27% of employees have seen personal attacks arise from conflicts
- 25% of employees have witnessed absence or sickness due to conflict
- 9% of employees have seen projects fail because of workplace conflict
As an owner, you have a vested interest in ensuring that conflict in your workplace is kept at a minimum. Constant conflict can lead to low employee morale, disengaged employees and high turnover rates. Luckily, all hope is not lost. When managed effectively, conflict can stimulate progress, deepen trust and strengthen relationships — all of which enhances productivity and optimizes bottom line results.
Here are some key conflict resolution strategies for handling conflict in your workplace:
- Set Team Ground Rules: Put some formality to the way your team works together by collectively establishing a set of ground rules that are inclusive of all members’ boundaries. The list should include the best way to communicate, cooperate and be productive. By deliberately establishing positive group norms, you can prevent the team from going toxic.
- Devise and Implement a Conflict Resolution Model for Your Company: Having a plan in place that outlines a protocol for employees to take when faced with conflict streamlines the resolution process. An organization’s approach to conflict resolution should be proactive, not reactive, as much as possible.
- ‘Ignoring It’ is Not an Option: When company leaders hear of an issue through the grapevine, they may cross their fingers and hope the issue resolves itself. The truth is, it won’t. If an employee brings up a problem, odds are it’s been developing for a while. Unresolved workplace issues lead to resentment, frustrated employees and dysfunctional work teams. HR professionals and company leaders alike must take the time to investigate, question and make effective decisions based on facts. The success of your organization may rely on it.
- Invest in Conflict Training: There is an assumption that co-workers will act professionally at work and that they know how to do that. Smart employers don’t assume. They insist on a culture where conflict is managed at the lowest level, by the parties themselves, and offer training to make that possible. This stance allows the business to speak a common language and share behaviors meant to be inclusive, not divisive. The smaller the company, the more essential conflict training becomes to ensure the company stays on track and moves ahead without the burden of infighting.
- Put Value in Team Culture: Proactively investing in the “upkeep” of team synergy has been vital to creating and maintaining highly effective teams. allocating resources for “team time” and milestone celebrations can go a long way to foster a more supportive environment that helps to minimize the occurrence of the ultimate productivity killer, petty conflict.
The strategies noted above show that an ounce of prevention is more important than a pound of cure. With an effective strategy in place, you should be able to protect your business from the negative effects of conflict in your workplace. Despite our differences or opposing views during a conflict, we must continue to work with one another to find constructive and positive solutions to the issues. This will ensure we are able to work again in the future with other team members, groups or companies.