Credit: Confident business rivals being in conflict looking at each other with hostile expressions. Serious business people leaning on table and arguing about strategy. Opposition or business competition concept
Conflict often gets ignored in the workplace because people do not like it, they don’t know how to deal with it and often hope that it will go away if it’s ignored. Unfortunately, it never goes away without some intervention. More often than not, the conflict will bubble beneath the surface and it will grow and have an even more negative impact on a business.
One study in the US found that employees spend 2.8 hours a week dealing with conflict which is equivalent to approximately $350 billion dollars a year in paid hours. These numbers only reflect paid hours, but the issue has a much broader impact. When conflict is not managed well employees will start calling in sick or could leave their job altogether. Dealing with it leaves people distracted and their productivity falls. And often entire teams get affected by the conflict that others have and their productivity and happiness at work is also impacted. Conflict is stressful and can lead to mental health issues. People will take the issues at work home, so often their personal life is impacted, too.
If you are a business owner and you want to manage conflict well, here are five things that will help you deal with it in your business.
1. Deal with it early
I often get calls when the situation is at crisis point and it is very hard at that point to salvage the situation. When people do not get along, deal with it immediately and do not let the conflict fester.
2. Know how to deal with it
We do not necessarily get taught in life how to deal with conflict and we often don’t like to talk about it or manage it. So, it comes as no surprise that a lot of people do not know how to handle it in an effective way. Train yourself and train your staff in conflict resolution skills so there are people in your business who can facilitate a resolution process or hire an external mediator to come and facilitate the process if you do not have the skills required in-house.
3. Create a process
Have a process in place for conflict resolution and ensure your staff are aware of it. Make sure it is a safe process for your employees. When you have a process in place your staff will know that it is important to you and that conflict will be dealt with in your business. If your employees have someone they can talk to and go to with their problems safely without repercussions, you will know about what is going on and you can deal with it.
Often when people tell us about something that is not working for them in the workplace, we become defensive and we do not listen. It is empowering when people feel listened to and it makes a big difference, even though you might not be able to solve the problem straight away.
5. Make conflict resolution a priority
Everyone gets busy and putting time and money aside to prevent conflict from happening or festering may feel counterproductive because everything appears okay at the moment. My advice would be to make conflict resolution a priority because if you don’t, you might find yourself in a crisis later that has the potential to cost you a lot more time, money and possibly impact on your team’s or on your mental health.
Lisanne Iriks, conflict resolution expert and mediator, Life Mediation