The modern workplace is comprised of people from multiple generations, backgrounds, and creeds. And while most professionals are focused on creating the best solutions for their organizations and customers, differences of options can cause conflict. A lack of focus on effective conflict management can not only be costly toward morale, but it can also hinder productivity and engagement.
According to a workplace conflict study, 85% of people experience conflict at work, with the average employee spending 2.8 hours a week dealing with workplace conflict. Over the course of a month, the average employee wastes a full day of productivity spent in conflict, amounting to 2.5 weeks of lost productivity annually. The study also found that 25% of employees have seen conflict result in absence or paid leave and 9% have had a project fail due to conflict in the workplace. While conflict may not be avoidable, talking through the issues and working toward a resolution not only raises employee morale and productivity, but it is also the first step in building a culture of open communication.
Understanding the Types of Conflict. The first step in building a culture of healthy communication is to understand the act of dealing with conflict. Within an organization, not only will there be conflict, but there will be several different styles of conflict. Most individuals fall into one of the five categories of conflict. These consist of the following:
Accommodating. People who have a tendency to embrace the accommodating style of conflict management tend to allow others to win, neglecting their own needs for the benefit of others.
Avoiding. Those who are conflict avoidant or use the avoiding style to mitigate conflict tend to ignore the issues, while also trying to avoid the situation or parties involved altogether.
Compromising. The compromising conflict management style drives individuals to meet in the middle and concede different aspects of an argument in order for a solution to be agreed upon.
Competing. Competing conflict is the opposite of compromise in which one party refuses to concede usually on moral grounds, so a solution is met only by allowing one side to get their way.
Collaboration. The final type of conflict is collaboration. This is the most ideal way of handing conflict and allows for all parties to leave a conflict with a win-win outcome.
Each style of conflict management shows how an individual deals with issues when conflict arises. However, the subject of the conflict should determine what type of conflict management a leader should use. While some may seem better than others, there is a time and place for all.
Working Through Conflict. Regardless of whether the leader is mitigating conflict between two employees or the conflict is between an employee and the employer, it is important to take measured steps to work through the conflict in a productive and constructive way. At the heart of healthy discourse is open communication. All parties need to feel comfortable enough to engage in dialogue about their feelings or frustrations. Depending on the conflict, a leader may have the tools necessary to handle the situation with a simple meeting. However, if the conflict is more complicated, it would benefit all parties to have a mitigator present to help facilitate the conversations. If your organization has an HR department, consider using a trained professional from that department to help work through the conflict. If the issues are beyond the expertise of your company, it may help to have a third-party representative present who is unbiased and can see all sides of the conflict with fresh eyes.
Continuing the Conversation. The fifth type of conflict management, collaboration, is the most time consuming, but it can also be the most rewarding. It requires an ongoing conversation and may require multiple conflict management sessions to ensure the most fulfilling and effective outcome. To build a culture of communication, this type of conflict management needs to be utilized to guarantee communication lines remain open and overall employee morale and engagement stay safeguarded. Company culture is about preserving the core values of an organization, so it is important to remain steadfast while working through conflict. And within those values, effective conflict resolution is imperative to safeguard the integrity of your organization.