Disagreements in the workplace are inevitable. But, how they are handled can make a big difference in their frequency and the severity of consequences that result from company conflict.
Conflict can take a devastating toll on business if not dealt with in a way that’s productive.
CPP Inc., publishers of the Myers-Briggs Assessment and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, conducted a study on workplace conflict.
The findings revealed that in 2008, U.S.employees spent 2.8 hours dealing with conflict. The total cost of their calculations amounts to approximately $359 billion in paid hours (based on average hourly earnings of $17.95), or the equivalent of 385 million working days.
And, workplace discord costs companies in other ways too. It can result in diminished productivity and might even cost a business to lose valuable employees.
Do you know what to do when conflict strikes at work?
Read on for tips on how to best handle company conflict!
Your Guide to Resolving Company Conflict
It’s reported that 25% of employees claim that avoiding conflict led to sickness or absence from their job. 10% report that workplace conflict led to the failure of a project. And, more than one-third of workers report that conflict has resulted in someone leaving the company.
Most of the time consequence-causing conflict such as that mentioned above can be avoided if you have the right practices in place. And, when it does occur, the damaging impact can be kept to a minimum if swift steps are taken to resolve the disagreement.
Following these 6 steps can help you to keep company conflict from weighing down your business.
6 Steps to Company Conflict Resolution
1. Establish Ground Rules for Mediating Communication
The ground rules should be in place prior to conflict taking place. Each employee should be notified of these rules and told the expectations and process for resolving conflict if, and when, it should arise.
Before reviewing the basic rules and attempting to mediate or facilitate communication, determine if a cooling off period is necessary.
Often times, our emotions can get the best of us during a disagreement and make matters worse. Waiting a few minutes, or a few hours may make a big improvement in the overall outcome.
The ground rules might include:
- Respectful Language (no inferences of stereotypes, gender bias, foul or abusive language
- Parties Encouraged to Use “I” Statements Instead of “You” (I feel left out, I feel frustrated, etc)
- Take Turns Listening and Speaking
As the mediator, it is your responsibility to ensure that the rules are being followed and if the conversation deviates from these, to gently guide the parties back on course.
The rules suggested above ascertain that everyone feels respected and heard, which is important to our basic needs of communication.
2. Ask Both Parties to Consider Possible Effects on the Business, Team, Project, etc
This is helpful in helping them realize that their behavior has an impact that is greater than its effect on the parties in conflict.
But, it is important that you ask them, rather than tell them. This way they must thoughtfully consider how it is affecting others and you don’t risk it sounding like an indictment.
3. Identify the Cause of the Conflict
It can be helpful to use a whiteboard or large sheet of paper to write the conclusions for the cause, solution, and steps. This way there is no confusion and both parties are able to voice their input.
Ask both of the parties what they believe to be the root cause of the conflict. Naturally, their interpretations might differ.
At this point, it may become apparent that the cause is more miscommunication, rather than one party being at fault over the other. This is often the case with conflict in all areas of our lives.
4. Identify a Solution
Both parties can give independent answers, but remind them that the goal is to come up with an agreeable solution. The step is only fulfilled once both parties agree on a suitable solution.
5. Define the Specific Steps to be Taken to Resolve the Conflict
Here, you can lead the discussion, and again using a whiteboard can be useful in defining a specific course of action. If you choose to lead, however, you should still rely on the parties to come up with the steps. Your role should be to clarify and summarize rather than do the work for them.
6. Communication is Key
A 2014 survey from About.com found that the primary reason that people are unhappy at work is related to communicating. 62% of people who don’t like their job cite problems based on communication.
The number one complaint is a lack of direction from management. This is followed by poor communication overall, and constant change that is not well communicated.
Clear and concise communication can cut down on a substantial amount of company conflict. Management should be especially careful in communicating and make sure that they are fully understood by everyone involved.
An effective leader is one that models desired behavior.
If employees do not observe positive communication practices from leadership, they are more likely to engage in negative behaviors as well.
This might include complaining, gossip, or poor attitudes. These behaviors can easily spread to others and have a significant overall impact. You might notice a decline in customer service, company morale, unmet deadlines, or quality of work.
Company conflict takes away from a primary focus of the business and results in a less efficient and less effective workplace.
Implementing and practicing effective rules of mature, adult-communication is vital to your company’s success and maintaining a high-quality workforce.
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