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The Impact of Workplace Conflict

“Often those that criticize others reveal what he himself lacks.” ― Shannon L. Alder

According to the Ayers Group, an organizational consulting firm, managers spend 1/3 of their workday dealing with conflict. Conflict is responsible for the majority of work performance problems. It frequently takes the form of back stabbing, gossip, and in worse case scenarios, sabotage.

A study entitled, “Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It to Thrive,” conducted by CPP, Inc., found that employees in the U.S. spend nearly three hours per week dealing with conflict in the workplace. This equates to approximately $359 billion in paid hours or 385 million work days annually. That is a lot of money to invest in unproductive time.

The study also found that 85% of employees dealt with conflict on the job. The primary causes of workplace conflict were personality clashes and warring egos (49%), followed by stress (34%) and heavy workloads (33%).

Intervention is necessary to get to the root of the problem and take corrective action.

Situations of conflict usually do not go away on their own and will escalate. In my experience the best place to start is to have a private conversation with the parties involved: first individually and then together. The goal is to determine the underlying cause(s) and what can be done to resolve the issue.

This is a time to listen while being aware that each person will explain the situation from their point of view - which is true for them. Reserve expressing your opinion or observations until you have a good understanding of the facts.

A professional coach can help the parties involved to resolve their conflict.

Having each individual work with a professional coach, who is neutral to the situation, has many advantages. A professional coach will guide the person through a process of discovering for himself why the conflict developed in the first place and what to do in the future.

People can sometimes come to work with baggage. They might have a limiting belief that, because a similar situation happened at a previous job, the results will be the same. They may make an assumption that people are against them or attacking them. Or they just want everyone to lose so they can win. A coach will help people to be conscious of why they react in the way that they do and to see that opportunity can come out of conflict...the opportunity to choose to respond differently the next time.

How leadership handles workplace conflict makes a big difference in reaching a positive outcome.

Conflict is natural and will always be present. While only 22% of the U.S. participants in the CPP study felt that management did a good job handling conflict in the workplace, 76% stated that when handled "well" it led to positive outcomes. It brings about a better understanding of others (81%) or a better solution to a workplace problem (84%).

What will you do to manage workforce conflict more effectively? Comment, share, and join the conversation.

Zackarie Lemelle
Managing Partner, Leadership Engagement Services
Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC)

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