Introduction to Conflict
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Whether it is caused by a clash of personalities, disagreement over a decision or miscommunications, almost every individual will be involved in, or be responsible for dealing with, some form of conflict during their career. For this reason, understanding why conflict occurs and planning for how to deal with it is one of the key responsibilities of any manager. Managers are generally given the responsibility of resolving employee conflict, if it doesn’t look like the individuals involved are going to come to a conclusion. Managers themselves can also often be involved in conflict and therefore it is also important to be aware of how to deal with conflict when you are the one driving it.
Managing conflict in your team will keep your team members happy, improve productivity and create a more enjoyable working environment. By allowing conflict to continue, you risk destroying team cohesion, decreasing performance and wasting talent, as team members leave.
When CPP Inc., publishers of the Myers-Briggs Assessment and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, commissioned a study on workplace conflict, they found that in 2008, U.S. employees spent 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict. This amounts to approximately $359 billion in paid hours (based on average hourly earnings of $17.95), or the equivalent of 385 million working days. This demonstrates the enormity of the problem and also the potential gains of quickly and effectively dealing with conflict in the workplace. The cost is not just in the time wasted dealing with the conflict, but also the effect it has on the colleagues surrounded by it and even often on clients.
There are two main types of conflict; substantive and personality. Substantive conflict occurs when decision, ideas, directions and actions clash. For example, at a strategy meeting two individuals may feel strongly about the direction they feel the company should go in. If their two opinions differ and neither is willing to concede, it is likely some form of conflict will develop. Personality conflict is driven by feelings, anger and frustration. This is often due to different outlooks, traits or personalities. For example, one individual may like to work whilst listening to music, whilst their colleague does not and if they attempt to play music in the office this may initiate conflict between them.
We will generally deal with conflict as a negative concept, however it can also act as a driving force for new ideas, hard work and improved performance. Conflict is a natural consequence of opinions and ideas and hence an organisation where conflict is not present may not be allowing its employees to express themselves fully. Therefore, it is important to remember that conflict will occur and that is natural, but it should also be dealt with quickly and the in the fairest way possible.
For more information about conflict, refer to our resources of Managing Conflict and Causes of Conflict. Businessballs.com also have a number of useful links on this topic, click here to visit them.
CPP. (2008). Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness it to Thrive. CPP Global Human Capital Report. July, 2008