Some amount of employee conflict is inevitable, so it’s all about making sure people react properly to differences with co-workers. In light of this, teaching proper means of managing conflict should be one of your top priorities. Although good management can help prevent the unnecessary butting of heads, disputes will occur for reasons such as personality differences, poor communication, lack of compliance with regulations, competition and disparities in values.
If conflict is not addressed, it may adversely affect office dynamics and productivity. This is a common issue across companies; as Business 2 Community reports, “over 65 percent of performance problems result from strained relationships between employees.” By encouraging an environment that allows open, effective communication with a view toward achieving a common goal, you can minimize interpersonal negativity. If identified and acted upon early on, there is a far smaller chance of a conflict getting blown out of proportion.
Seeing the Positive and the Negative
The effects of workplace conflict can fall on either side of the spectrum. On the positive end, divergent viewpoints sometimes lead to the creation of fresh insights that evolve into innovative ideas. Whether it’s a solution to a problem or a constructive change, new thinking generated from conflict is a major plus. When employees motivate one another through confrontation, their productivity levels just might increase.
On the other hand, conflict may cause stress that damages employee relationships and group dynamics. Affected employees are less likely to cooperate with certain co-workers or management decisions. This could lead to reduced productivity, low job satisfaction and a damaged company culture. According to the CPP Global Human Capital Report, 27 percent of surveyed employees reported personal attacks that stemmed from escalating conflicts, while 25 percent witnessed conflict that resulted in sickness or absence.
At a macro level, conflict can lead to staff turnover and damage your business reputation. The Center for American Progress estimates that the cost of turnover for workers earning less than $50,000 annually is 20 percent of an employee’s annual salary. Adding to this, a 2013 Gallup poll indicated that a startling $450 to $550 billion in profits is lost annually in the U.S because of declining productivity.
Faced with these numbers, you’ll realize the quantitative and qualitative value of implementing a proper dispute-resolution process. Because work disputes penetrate at the seams of every organization in varying degrees, managing conflict should be integral at your company. Let’s take a look at four actionable measures you can implement to minimize the negative effects of politicking.
To solve workplace problems, teach employees to exercise open communication and to express their concerns freely. Use this platform as an opportunity to listen and collaboratively chart a path toward a practical solution. Make sure management takes the lead in encouraging communication using this approach.
2. Common Goals
It goes without saying that a major source of conflict is misunderstood instructions or expectations. Ensuring that employees focus on common goals and organizational objectives should be your primary concern. This helps your employees understand their roles in the organization and how they can contribute toward company objectives together.
A sure way to minimize office politics is to allow employees to take ownership of their projects. Studies have shown that autonomy at work propels high engagement. At a management level, monitor employees’ progress by tracking work on a regular basis. This way, you can provide constructive feedback along the way and encourage open communication to avoid disputes. In addition, this makes it a justifiable way of acknowledging diligent employees.
4. Conflict Guidelines
It’s helpful to have formal conflict guidelines in place so that disputes don’t get out of hand. Employees may not inform their managers of a conflict but rather choose to confront the co-worker, causing further friction. To avoid this added tension, take steps to establish guidelines for resolving workplace conflict. This will direct concerned employees to the right person to gauge how to approach the situation and take proper action.
Because office politics are unavoidable at any level of an organization, it’s best to ensure that a concerted effort is put in place to reduce their impact on individual employees and the company at large. It’s therefore essential that you implement measures to handle workplace conflict effectively, because reducing it creates a healthy work environment that helps your employees and company succeed.
Emmie Sahlan has a graduate degree in English and has been writing professionally for the past five years. Her niche areas are insurance, credit cards, personal finance and education.