Defining Workplace Conflict
A condition between or among workers whose jobs are interdependent, who feel angry, who perceive the other(s) as being at fault, and who act in ways that cause a business problem.
Potential Benefits of conflict
conflict is not usually a bad thing , just think about how many times it happened throughout your life that you had a conflict with someone or started off on the wrong foot and then you ended up being best friends. How many times have you had an argument or a conflict with someone else then after it was resolved your relation became stronger or better than it ever was before? the fact is that a conflict situation can actually be an opportunity if we choose to look at it this way for us to build stronger relations with others either in or outside our working environment.
• Conflict promotes growth, through learning to overcome challenges in unison with others
• It promotes creativity and innovation as solutions are suggested to overcome the differences between the stakeholders
• It promotes the development of interpersonal skills, as individuals strive to get on with each other in spite of their differences
• It promotes mutual understanding of different values, aspirations and cultures (sometimes people are not trying to be difficult, they just have a different mind-set)
• It promotes social change and progress, as society changes and develops and a culture unfolds.
• It promotes growth as the process of resolution overcomes the stagnation of the status quo. (necessity is the mother of invention and conflict is one of necessity’s prodigies)
• It can promote originality and reflection when your viewpoint is challenged
So, When Does a situation qualify to be a workplace conflict and I must do something about it?
1. When the two parties are interdependent
Which means that for each person to get his/her job done depends somehow on the other person or in other words their jobs are inter-related.
2. The two parties blame each other that is they find fault in each other for causing the problem
The two parties are starting to point fingers and the situation is getting personal. They start blaming each other as persons and objectively criticizing behavior.
3. The two parties are angry and feel emotionally upset
Both parties have and display negative feelings and emotions because of the situation.
4. The problem is affecting work productivity (Major reason)
This is the main factor that differentiates any argument or misunderstanding from a real workplace conflict is that when the quality of work of each or any of the parties is starting to be negatively affected due to this situation.
Now that we know when does a certain situation qualify to be a workplace conflict that must be dealt with because of the negative effect it has on work or personal life.
Major Costs of unresolved conflict
The major costs are those with direct impact on the bottom line like decrease in sales, lost company assets or any overall revenue loss due to the unresolved conflict. Following are more major costs of conflict if left unresolved and dealt with:
Work performance and quality: Higher stress amongst the conflict parties often leads to decrease in productivity and the quality of the work done. When people are pre-occupied with a conflict situation are more prone to overlook small details or find it difficult to handle more than one project at a time, these distractions also block people from being creative and negatively affects their problem solving skills so the company can miss some good ideas and smart solutions to problems.
Lower productivity: As effort and resources are redirected into the conflict and away from the work in hand, people may find their thoughts drifting over and recalling the conflict and thinking what went wrong. Its fair to say that many of those experiencing a conflict situation at work do spend a lot of precious work time thinking it over and over again.
Lost time: People in conflict often avoid each other and consequently outcomes can be delayed which can have a direct impact on work productivity in addition to that conflict parties often spend time venting to others and talking about the subject with other colleagues which can lead to even more wasted time, there is a cost to that as well. There is also the possibility of increased costs to cover negotiation preparation, negotiation time, mediation and/or arbitration costs and, perhaps, legal costs.
Lost workdays: Parties involved in conflict can seek comfort and avoid the stress of being at work because of the conflict situation and not show up to work by taking sick days off , there is a direct impact and direct cost to that.
Health care costs: Stress caused from conflict situations can have a direct relation to several health issues like ulcers, high blood pressure. Certain conflict situations if left unresolved can even lead to heart attacks due to the increasing amount of stress on one or all of the concerned parties. In addition to the possibility of increased on the job injuries when people are preoccupied with a conflict situation and miss important safety precautions.
Sabotage or theft: If employees reach a point where they feel no one cares about a situation, its not all that unusual for sabotage and theft to happen. It may sound extreme but in some cases employees get so emotionally upset that they would do anything to get back to the other party including hiding equipment they need to do their job just to cause them additional frustration.
Higher attrition rate: Obviously an unresolved conflict can cause team members to just quit the company increasing the overall attrition rate causing an increase in costs of hiring, interviewing and screening ...etc. in addition to the training time and cost spent to get the new employee up to speed.
Legal costs : Just to prove a point some employees may take a conflict they have with their company to court with all the associated costs of filing a lawsuit and all associated legal fees.
Inappropriate decision making: Lower interpersonal cohesion as individuals and their supporters - take sides and begin to stereotype each other and Inappropriate decisions are made to support the various causes and positions of the parties status and ego become more important than reason and reality.
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