Let’s talk about workplace conflicts! Indeed, one dread of managers in every organization is conflicts among the employees. Conflicts can occur in any work environment, and if it is not addressed, it can lead to general poor performance. If it persists for long, the firm’s reputation is put at stake, resulting in revenue loss.
According to statistics shared by CPG Global, American companies usually lose over $359 billion every year due to workplace conflicts. It is, therefore, essential for managers to realize the causes and impacts of workplace conflicts. Besides, they should have some conflict management strategies in place.
What Causes Conflicts in the Workplace?
It is your role as the manager to prevent conflicts from happening in your firm and offering solutions to your staff. Here are some of the reasons why your employees have conflicts:
- Unclarity: Poor communication leading to misunderstandings
- Opposing priorities: Assigning employees multiple urgent tasks without giving them specific deadlines may cause conflicts if you need a particular task they had not prioritized. Always be clear which task you need first.
- Un-leveraged diversity: If your company does not respect or recognize the unique role played by different employees, there will always be conflicts. Value and respect their race, ability, age, religion, nationality, gender, ethnicity, or status.
- Exhaustion: Excessive workloads with no rewards, insufficient appreciation and inadequate compensation
- Role ambiguity: If the staff is not aware of what is expected of them, there will always be conflict. Ensure everyone’s role is laid down and expectations are clearly articulated.
- Being perceived as being unfair: If, as the manager, you favor some employees and treat others wrongly, be prepared to deal with conflicts.
The Power of Conflict in the Workplace
Negative Aspects of Frictions
Workplace conflicts can be compelling if not addressed, and it is your duty as the leader to address them. Never underestimate the power of conflicts in your organization; it could be the beginning of your fall. Here are some negative impacts:
- Poor work performance
You may be used to miss deadlines, but conflicts lead to more severe occurrences like errors, disagreements, and improper planning. If not addressed, it breeds a toxic workplace characterized by arguments and gossips, which leads to poor performance.
- Revenue Loss
Because of the toxic working environment, there will be increased employee turnover rates that require you to spend more money recruiting and training new staff. Besides, there will be poor customer experience, which eventually affects the organization’s reputation, leading to revenue loss as customers shift to your competitors.
- Low morale
If you have employees who don’t like conflicts (who likes them actually?!), they will prefer taking time off. Since they are stressed and drained emotionally, there will be high absenteeism rates, which eventually will lead to quitting the job.
- Poor communication
Your team should be in constant communication to avoid misunderstandings and ensure finishing the projects on time.
Positive Impacts of Frictions
Although many business leaders see the negative aspects of conflicts, these frictions have the potential to have a really positive impact on the organization. Indeed, every time your employees do not agree with you or among themselves, there is an opportunity. Henry Ford once said, “Whenever two people always agree, one of them is unnecessary.” So be prepared for some frictions and encourage your teams to stay in the dialogue despite those frictions. Here are some of the positive aspects of frictions:
- Leads to creativity
Conflict provides an excellent platform for some employees to brainstorm perspectives and ideas to solve the problem. They check the problems from diverse perspectives leading to more creativity. After the frictions have been resolved, they apply the same inspiration to execute their duties.
- Breeds innovation
Frictions in the company provide thinkers with an opportunity to expand their skills to avoid those issues from happening again. They apply the same innovation to their work when you resolve the conflicts.
- Improved processes
As the team gets united and puts the tensions and differences aside, there will be a smooth flow of activities and processes within the organization. This makes everyone focus on the goals of the company and work together as a team.
- Solves re-occurring problems
Conflicts usually occur because there is a series of unattended problems bothering employees. When resolving the problems, you will settle all the issues and give the go-ahead on the new “better” path to be followed.
- Appreciation of diversity
After you have resolved the conflict, you will have created a working environment where different opinions are appreciated and respected irrespective of someone’s race, nationality, gender, or religion.
So how do you deal with the negative impacts of frictions?
Conflict Management and Resolution in the Workplace
There are various conflict management strategies and resolutions you can implement to have a favorable working environment for your staff. Here are some of them:
- Don’t wait: Address any conflict as soon as you notice it
- Let the involved parties speak out their views and concerns
- Listen attentively and ask them to clarify questions – avoid being reactive “Understand before being understood”.
- Encourage empathy: You can even suggest a role-play where each other would describe the situation from the other person’s shoes. This can lead to great mutual discovery.
- Come up with common agreement points from what you heard from the parties – Re-Align on the shared objectives – What do we want collectively?
- Guide without taking sides or being biased
- If necessary – Ensure they apologize to each other to avoid grudges.
- Team Contract: This might be the most important step you could do to prevent unhealthy conflicts to occur. It will help you and your team articulate what is acceptable in the team or not, what the rules are, what can be tolerated, etc.
You can save your organization from drowning by playing your role as a mediator effectively. Come up with a strategy for conflict resolution in the workplace and have a working environment that encourages open communication and psychological safety. Whenever you notice an ongoing conflict or friction among your employees, determine the cause and address it immediately.
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