Where people interact, conflict is inevitable. A recent study has found that poorly managed conflicts cost companies substantial money and time. CPP Global Capital Report, July 2008 “Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness it to Thrive.” The average company spends 2.1 hours a week dealing with conflict, which translates to 385 million working days in the United States lost due to conflict in the workplace. Id.
Conflict can arise from any number of situations. Employees participating in the CPP study state the primary causes of workplace conflict to be “personality clashes and warring egos (49%), followed by stress (34%) and heavy workloads (33%).”
Conflict hurts business. CPP found that almost one in ten employees report that conflict results in project failure and 25 percent report it results in sickness or absence. Id. It is further reported that: “one in five employees (18%) say that people have left the organization because of conflict, 16% say that people were fired and one in ten (9%) even attribute a project failure to disagreements between those involved.” Id. Also: “Over half of employees (57%) have left a conflict situation with negative feelings, most commonly de-motivation, anger and frustration.” The business pays for conflict in lost productivity, lost clients and turn over costs. Id.
What should an employer do when its employees have conflict? One smart option is to utilize a mediator. In mediation, both parties will have a chance to express their concerns in a safe, confidential environment. They will feel validated. The mediator, a neutral party, will use conflict resolution skills to help the parties resolve the conflict. Mediation focuses on saving and building relationships, so the employees can begin to work together in a productive manner. A mediator can be put on contract to be available on an as needed basis.
A second and not mutually exclusive option is to use a conflict resolution trainer to train employees to positively resolve conflicts. Only 57 percent of American companies have had any conflict resolution training, which explains the statistics above. Id. Classes can be anywhere for a couple hours in length to a couple of days. Even limiting training to management will likely lower the costs of conflict.
Studies show that using a mediator or a conflict resolution trainer lowers the costs associated with conflict. Well-managed conflict can actually result in employees feeling that something positive came from the conflict. Id. Companies must have a strategy for conflict resolution, or it should expect a negative impact to its bottom line.
Alona M. Gottfried is a mediator, conflict resolution trainer and attorney in Arizona. If you have questions about mediation or conflict resolution training, she can be reached at: 480-998-1500 or alona(at)sglawaz.com. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be legal advice. See a legal professional before making legal decisions.
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