Organization leaders are responsible for creating a work environment that enables people to thrive. If turf wars, disagreements and differences of opinion escalate into interpersonal conflict, you must intervene immediately
These are some steps you want to take to help with conflict resolution in your workplace.
1. Meet with the antagonists together. Let each briefly summarize their point of view, without comment or interruption by the other party. This should be a short discussion so that all parties are clear about the disagreement and conflicting views. Intervene if either employee attacks the other employee. This is not acceptable
2. Handle conflict sooner rather than later. This is the single most important tip to successfully resolve conflicts: Do it now! It’s very tempting to wait for a conflict to blow over by itself, but it rarely does – in most cases it only gets worse with time
Managing ‘difficult’ employees
Working alongside difficult people can be hard enough. But managing someone with whom you have a personality clash can cause major tension.Experienced managers know how to separate emotions from the work at hand when dealing with employees. Rather than dwelling on an employee’s negative personality traits, smart managers focus on tasks, projects and results. They don’t allow their personal feelings to interfere, and they treat everyone the same way. But in too many cases, managers simply turn away from their least favorite employees. Rather than interacting with them, they avoid them. What’s worse, managers may just write off the problem employees and do the employees’ jobs themselves.
Turning your back on difficult employees isn’t just a management mistake—it can also create legal trouble. That’s because employees who frequently bump heads with management are also the ones most likely to file lawsuits when they feel they’re being treated unfairly. That’s why, when confronted with employees who don’t do what’s asked, it’s best to devise a strategy for making the best of a potentially explosive situation. Although it may be hard to transform a difficult employee into a warm, friendly ally, there are several steps you can take to make it easier for the employee to comply.
Conflict can also be costly to an organization. The impact of conflict in the workplace can be devastating to the parties involved, to colleagues and teams, to clients, and to the business as a whole. Some of the results of unresolved conflict in the workplace include:
Mental Health / Stress: “Unresolved conflict represents the largest reducible cost in many businesses, yet it remains largely unrecognized.” (Dana, Daniel (1999). Measuring the Financial Cost of Organizational Conflict. MTI Publications and Slaikev, K. and Hasson, R. (1998). Controlling the Cost of Conflict. Jossey-Bass)
Grievances/Litigation: “The math isn’t complicated. A complaint that escalates to a lawsuit can easily cost $50 000 to $100 000 and take three to five years to settle. It doesn’t stop there. (Taylor, Robin,Workplace tiffs boosting demand for mediators. National Post Mar. 17/03)
“According to a nationwide study, the average jury verdict in wrongful termination cases is over $600 00 and companies lose 64% of the cases.” (Bureau of National Affairs, Without Just Cause: An Employer’s Practical Guide on Wrongful Discharge, 2008)
Employee loss / turnover: “Chronic unresolved conflict acts as a decisive factor in at least 50% of departures. Conflict accounts for up to 90% of involuntary departures, with the possible exception of staff reductions due to downsizing and restructuring.” (Dana, Dan, [online] The Dana Measure of Financial Cost of Organizational Conflict, 2001)
“No matter what the cause, turnover has a number of undesirable implications for organizations, including the costs of losing an experienced worker, recruiting and retraining a successor (retraining is estimated to cost 1.5 times the employee’s annual salary), the lower productivity of a new worker, and secondary morale effects on managers, peers and subordinates.” (Duxbury & Higgins, Work-Life Conflict in Canada in the New Millenium: A status Report, 2008)
Loss of Productivity/Wasted Time
“Tension and stress reduce motivation and disturb concentration. A loss of simple productivity of 25% (doing things other than work related activities, such as discussing the dispute, playing computer games, finding reasons to get out of the area) reduces an average work week to fewer than 20 hours…)” (Cram, James A. and MacWilliams, Richard K.[online] The Cost of Conflict in the Workplace, Cramby River Consultants, date unknown)
“…depression and high stress were found to have the greatest impact on worker health care costs., increasing these costs more than obesity, smoking or high blood pressure. In fact, these cost were 46% higher for workers who felt they were under a lot of stress.” (The Health Communication Unit [online], The Case for Comprehensive Workplace health Promotion: Making “Cents” of a Good Idea, date unknown.)
“Workplace stress and work-related conflict are among the top eight reasons why employees request counseling assistance.” (Warren Shepel, Workplace Trends Linked to Mental Health Crisis in Canada, 2002)
“Job stress is a key driver of health care costs. According to the Journal of Occupational Environmental Medicine, health care expenditures are nearly 50 percent greater for workers reporting high levels of stress.”(Corbitt Clark, Mary, [online],
These symptoms of unresolved conflict are a significant cost factor in organizations. How much is conflict costing your organization?