When organizations equip and empower employees to resolve workplace conflict, employee can harness the myriad benefits of workplace conflict.
In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity. -- Albert Einstein
Once again, a communication failure on your marketing design team means the client review of visual content must be rescheduled. The client wants to launch the ad campaign at the start of the new year. This is another setback for this client and a second team failure for another major client. As department leader, you thought individual and team conversations resolved the breakdown, but to no avail. Everyone continues to blame each other. You’ve been with the company for two years, and now your position is at risk. The company may lose money on this project, not to mention the client.
Naturally, you are upset that professionals are unable to work through their disagreements and deliver a project on time.
Your employees tell you they feel ill-equipped to resolve the communication breakdown about the new design.
You all feel unable to handle the diverse personalities and voices necessary to generate fresh and create ideas for clients.
You are also concerned that your lead designer will leave the company. Since it is now October, you need her to help complete the project.
When you equip and empower your employees to resolve workplace conflict, you create an environment where each employee brings their best selves to the team and organization. When employees thrive, they:
Find their work meaningful
Feel connected to the team and their organization
Enjoy their responsibilities
Take ownership of their performance
Press forward for teammates and customers
In the workplace, conflict is inevitable. It is a natural derivative of doing business. However, conflict need not be the collapse of a project, department, or company. It need not destroy the energy and spirit of your employees who may just lack the skills to manage conflict. In fact, when managed peacefully and productively, conflict has myriad benefits, including:
Increased understanding of others
Improved working relationships
Better solutions to problems or challenges
Improved team performance
Ultimately, knowing how to resolve conflict can be the beginning of individual and organizational learning and growth.
Resolve Workplace Conflict Peacefully and Productively
Resolving workplace conflict peacefully and productively requires an intentional focus on cultivating a conflict competent workplace culture. This means that conflict management must be a core leadership skill because conflicts often begin small and slowly build-up to take up residence in mind, hearts, and hands. This slow burn constructs walls around teams and departments, disengages employees, and fuels departures. Conflict competent leaders are able to recognize conflict when it first emerges and address and resolve it quickly.
On average, employees spend 2.8 hours per week navigating workplace conflict, averaging an annual loss of $3,000 per employee as a calculated on an hourly rate of $20.80. Conflict translates into the loss of thousands of dollars each year in productivity, talent, reputation, opportunity, and innovation, not to mention the mental and physical strain on employee health and the weakening of critical workplace relationships.
In a previous article, we discussed the value of having a workplace mediation company on retainer. Ensuring employees have access to professionally trained mediators supports an organization’s culture in becoming resilient to workplace conflict. Professionally trained mediators are able to:
Remain impartial, ensure confidentiality, promote effective communication, and facilitate negotiations toward mutually agreed upon solutions
Ensure the respect and dignity of each person involved in the process is held at the highest level so that the parties can move forward and work together
Help the organization foster and preserve working relationships
Working directly for and with the organization, professional conflict engagers facilitate learning during the resolution process, and they are available to design and facilitate ongoing training for employees.
Conflict resolution is not just a manager’s responsibility. Everyone must be equipped to respond in a safe and thoughtful matter since conflict is inevitable in the day-to-day operation of business.
Because conflict avoidance is also a real thing. We generally hope a disagreement, along with negative feelings that accompany unresolved issues, will disappear and operations will return to normal. However, normal operations do not mean conflict vanishes. As leaders, we might be unaware of unaddressed matters between employees which will eventually deteriorate morale and result in unsettled feelings, delayed projects, and workplace trauma. Conflicts follow a path through corporate operations and negatively impact the bottom line. According to Jeff Hayes, CEO of CPP, Inc.,
Conflict has a bounty of positive potential, which if harnessed correctly, can stimulate progress in ways harmony often cannot. Ultimately, we found it would be prudent for members of the workforce to rethink conflict’s role in the workplace and the many assumptions made pertaining to it. If managed improperly, businesses’ productivity, operational effectiveness, and morale take a major hit, as evidenced in our finding that 27 percent of employees have witnessed conflict morph into a personal attack, while 25 percent say that the avoidance of conflict resulted in sickness or absence from work.
In addition, the CPP study reports that the majority of employees (85 percent) have to deal with conflict to some degree and 29% do so “always” or “frequently.” This means 71 percent of employees may be avoiding conflict to get through the workday. The primary causes of workplace conflict are seen as personality clashes and warring egos (49 percent), followed by stress (34 percent) and heavy workloads (33 percent) the study reveals.
Most notable, the report exposes a discrepancy between how well managers “think they handle conflict and how well they actually do.” With a third of managers (31 percent) who believe they handle disagreements well, but only 22 percent of non-managers agreeing with them. Consider the 78 percent of non-managers who would challenge the manager’s perception.
Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report highlights significant data corporate leaders should pay close attention, especially related to “quiet quitters.” These employees are working, but not as effectively as they could. They are watching the clock while offering the minimum effort required. They are psychologically disconnected from the work and organization.
Although they are minimally productive, quiet quitters are more likely to be stressed and burnt out than engaged workers because they feel lost and disconnected from their workplace. Keep in mind the added stress of workplace conflict.
41 percent of quiet quitting employees (the majority) want engagement and culture change.
Quiet quitters present the greatest opportunity for growth and change. They are waiting for a leader or a manager to have a conversation with them, encourage them, and inspire them. —Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report
Empower Employees to Resolve Workplace Conflict
Conflict is inevitable but need not upend everyone’s hard work nor strip them from experiencing joy in the workplace. Your employees are waiting for guidance to resolve conflict. By engaging a workplace mediation company, organizations can prevent a myriad workplace disruptions, including:
• Communication breakdowns
• Competitive tension between departments and peers
• Cultural conflicts due to differences in beliefs, values, and practices
• Policy and procedural changes
• Customer or client disputes
Equip and empower your leaders and employees with our corporate retainer for conflict intervention services. Embrace efficiency, cut costs, and foster a positive work environment that propels your success.
Workplace Peace Institute is an organization systems design and research firm that is singularly focused on creating workplace cultures where people thrive. Workplace Peace Institute supports small to mid-sized businesses in optimizing employee engagement, maximizing organizational productivity, and improving profitability by infusing human security and dignity as foundational attributes of their business model.
Our Leadership Academy supports leaders in honoring basic human needs and dignity needs in the workplace, so they can actualize human potential in the workplace. The online Leadership Academy optimizes competencies in human behavior, communication skills, conflict resolution, and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging to create highly engaged workplaces where basic human needs and dignity are consistently honored. All our courses are offered online and can be customized for in-person workshops and seminars.