3 Keys to Eliminating Destructive Conflict

A recent call from a potential client was to resolve a conflict between two employees that “has been going on for years!” When a comment such as this is said, the first question should be “Why?” Why has it been going on for years? When conflict in the workplace goes unresolved it costs the organization bigtime, and needs to be addressed immediately. Let’s first try to understand what it costs an organization, then what to do about it.

The costs of conflict can be insidious. Conflict can escalate to the point that it costs the organization legal fees In addition, if unresolved conflict finally results in termination, the Rand Corporation estimated in 1986, that it cost $100 000 to defend a wrongful termination suit, and today the costs are much higher. There are also hidden costs of conflict including time spent covering your behind instead of doing your work. In addition, people in conflict have a higher level of absenteeism, tardiness and grievance filing. Turnover is another hidden cost of unresolved conflict which may occur if conflict is not resolved. These costs include severance costs, recruitment, staffing costs and lost productivity. In addition, the morale of your team suffers when conflict is not resolved, and high stress will cost you more in healthcare costs.

So how can you resolve workplace conflict in an effective manner? First, conflict should be addressed as soon as it surfaces. The longer conflict is not dealt with the more difficult it becomes. Once a person has a negative impression of another, they use that negative spin to put meaning to everything the other person does. Over time the conflict becomes so convoluted that people often do not know where it started.

Second, an important approach is to have a culture in which open and honest communication is reinforced. On an interpersonal level the people need to understand that they are expected to confront an individual directly as opposed to talking about the person to others. No one likes to confront difficult issues, but the longer the conflict goes on the harder it is to resolve. Third, managers need to be trained in how to confront issues in a constructive manner, and every member of your organization needs to be held accountable for dealing with conflict swiftly and in a problem solving manner. In some cases an outside facilitator is necessary to mediate and resolve the conflict. The key is to make sure conflict is not swept under the rug and your bottom line will be grateful!

One thought on “3 Keys to Eliminating Destructive Conflict

  1. The conflict between colleagues is often linked with competition for recognition and advancement. One person bullies the others in the presence of everybody else, thus creating a scene to be remembered. The bully establishes dominance in the workplace and moves up in the company. The targets and the spectators find themselves apologizing for over-reacting at or after the scene, and get labeled as problem-employees.

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