This month is filled with a roller coaster ride of emotions. Concluding my September was a big event that my branch held. This nationwide event stirred varying conflicts of different degrees. The highly stressful environment induced a simple misunderstanding, which became a whole ordeal among the team. You see, some people began taking sides. A week has passed before my boss noticed that something is wrong. He needed to resolve the problem immediately! Fortunately, his intervention worked out.
While business owners know that workplace conflicts affect productivity and employee morale, not many are aware that office drama can drain their funds. In 2008, the publishers of the Myers-Briggs Assessment and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument conducted a study on workplace conflict. Results showed that American employees spent nearly 3 hours per week in dealing with workplace conflicts. This is equivalent to approximately S$490 billion in paid hours or equivalent to 385 million working days. These crazy numbers pose an alert to people running the workplace.
Workplace conflict’s effects are not limited to time wasted. 25% of employees reported that they avoided conflicts by skipping work or by calling in sick. Equally alarming, nearly 10% reported that conflicts led to project failure. These negative behaviors translate to financial losses, especially felt by small businesses.
It is no secret that we spend our time comparing, gossiping, retaliating, and playing defense. These countless amounts of time is much rather spent on customer interactions and other productive activities. Navigating yourself around the whole drama is important. You do not want to lose some loyal customers just because two employees are tarnishing your organization’s image!
On that note, I have listed some practical ways to deal with workplace conflicts.
1. Employers shall create a workplace environment that empowers employees to manage conflicts. Regardless of your employee’s role in the organization, HR officers must conduct behavioral questions that tests how one shall react during conflicts. For instance, an applicant may share about his or her previous experiences in dealing with workplace issues.
2. As a part of cultivating a conducive environment, you may encourage healthy dialogues or debates in small groups. Help your employees appreciate the value of differing perspectives and analyze each one.
3. As much as you want your employees to resolve their conflicts on their own, you must know where to draw the line. Do not expect that everyone can handle every problem on their own! Ensure that your employees can count on you when they have encountered inappropriate or illegal behaviors. You must be immediately notified when there are indications of physical violence, sexual harassment, theft, or substance abuse.
4. Remind your team that they shall focus on the unpleasant workplace behaviors and its consequences when trying to address a particular conflict. They must not take things personally. They are not there to assassinate someone else’s character. They are there to improve their team’s dynamics.
5. Provide ongoing training on conflict resolution and stress management. These types of training can lead to self-assessment and self-understanding of one’s conflict-management skills. Drills can help them identify the pros and cons of using a certain style.
6. As an employer, you must not put the workplace conflicts on top of your priority list. Actively listen to your employees and support them in every way possible. But, you do not have to automatically take ownership of their problems. Be able to discern whether an issue needs immediate action or not.
7. Say that one employee is consistently causing the workplace dramas. Furthermore, you do not see any improvements as time passes. Pull this employee aside and talk to him or her in a mature manner. Monitor his or her progress by talking to the team periodically. This can help prevent any future conflicts from spiraling out of control.
As a leader, you must navigate around the issues with objective lenses. Know the truth of each sides and run through the possible interventions that you can offer. Every move counts!