Let's Break It Down...
Conflict is inevitable in high performing teams and workplaces. It’s an uncomfortable truth, especially for innate conflict avoiders. If it goes unresolved, it can have a big impact on culture, employee wellbeing and the company’s bottom line.
But does it always derail performance and output? Well, not entirely. In fact, when handled respectfully, conflict can pave the way for development and create a robust culture that employees want to be a part of.
In a nutshell, workplace conflict is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests between people working together.
So, let’s take a deeper dive into why it can be so costly, remedies that can be applied and how to view conflict as an opportunity.
Conflict Can Cost... Big Time!
Let’s rip the band aid off.
Research indicates that 85 per cent of employees will experience conflict at least once in their career.
But it’s when it goes unresolved or drags on that things become costly. In fact, workplace conflict costs U.S. businesses more than $350 billion every year in absenteeism, legal disputes and resources.
But it’s not just about the money, conflict can impact employee wellbeing and psychological safety, staff morale, customer experience and company culture.
Three Tips To Handle Conflict Effectively
Before acknowledging a problem and attempting to find a solution or common ground, both parties need to know what the conflict is about. Identifying the cause of conflict will help both parties understand the root of the issue and eliminate any ambiguity. Both parties should be given equal time to express their thoughts, concerns and version of events. Once the cause of the conflict is clearly understood, you now have a base to work from.
In his Hoap Expert Series, founder and CEO of global talent booking agency Pickstar, James Begley, said ‘’whenever you’re trying to resolve conflict with someone, you need to try and acknowledge the emotion.’’
By each party identifying how a situation made them feel, it helps foster empathy which can be the first step towards finding a resolution.
Mr Begley went on to highlight the importance of using a mediator, because if one person doesn’t feel acknowledged, resentment can become an issue and derail a resolution process.
Agree on a solution and the responsibilities each party has
Once each party feels heard and acknowledged, there needs to be rules and responsibilities set in place for each party in order to avoid the same conflict unfolding again.
The important part here is that whatever the rules or responsibilities are, they are agreed upon by both parties.
With an agreement in place, both parties can now be held accountable to it and have their future actions based on what they accepted as fair and appropriate.
Finding The Opportunity In Conflict
Conflict, when handled respectfully, can lead to positive outcomes.
When it’s based on the contest of ideas, conflict can actually foster innovation and collaboration.
An indicator of high performing teams is when its members consistently challenge each other to take risks and pursue new ways of thinking to unlock great results.
On top of that, research suggests almost a quarter of workers say they feel good about conflict, particularly as it can engender confidence that the issue in question has been properly aired and dealt with.
So, conflict doesn’t always mean negative outcomes.
As long as staff wellbeing can be maintained throughout the conflict process, high performance can be achieved.