Taking a Proactive Approach to Workplace Conflict… I get giddy

brendaWorkplace Harmony0 Comments

A recent Globe and Mail* report on business stated that employers are finally noticing the affect that workplace conflict has on their employees well-being and productivity. As a result, there is a growing demand on professional development to improve conflict management skills.

Office ConflictWorkplace Conflict isn’t a new phenomena so why is skill development a growing demand now? Perhaps one reason is due to the chunk of money it costs both employers and employees.

Back in 2009 a CPP Human Capital Report was released with the results of 5,000 full time employees in 9 countries surveyed on Workplace Conflict. They determined that workplace conflict costs employers on average of 2.1 hours each week per employee.



Let’s do some quick conservative math to see what this cost looks like to an organization of 50 employees with an average hourly wage of $20.00.

(If you are a manager and reading this then calculate your employee’s average wage and take these steps to determine your costs.)

$20.00 x 2.1 hours = $42.00
$42.00 x 50 employees = $2,100 per week
$2,100 x 48 weeks/year = $100,800.00

We can clearly see how conflict costs the employer money. Now, let’s step back and see what it costs the individual employee and their family.

  • Distraction & de-focusing
  • Depression
  • Sleepless nights and stress
  • Increase out-of-pocket medical costs for prescription drugs &/or counselling
  • Increase anger & frustration at work that can easily affect your family life

Clearly workplace conflict has an impact on the organization as a whole and on the individual employee so doesn’t it make sense that both employee and employer take pro-active measures to develop their conflict management skills?

With that in mind, here is a list of actions individuals and organizations can take to build skills, increase organizational and individual awareness with respect to conflict and develop a culture of mutual support.

  1. Create an In-house training program to develop specific conflict management skills
  2. Develop an employee incentive program that recognizes individual’s investing in their own conflict management skill development.
  3. Organize informal team circles to address workplace issues (specific guidelines required)
  4. Create EAP options for conflict management coaching
  5. Develop a workplace culture from the Top-Down that encourages assertive communication to deal with conflict immediately rather than allowing it to fester between employees &/or managers

Yes, all these items can/should be implemented and I know that it can feel like a tall order but the fact is, with a systematic approach and persistence it can be carried out.think outside box

I get absolutely giddy with excitement when I’m approached by an organization who takes a proactive approach to conflict management and requests training/coaching because things are going well and they want to build on that momentum.

And when an individual asks for conflict management coaching for the simple reason that they know there are areas they can improve on and not just because they are in the middle of a workplace or individual conflict….my giddiness turns into undeniable admiration.

We have spent our lives developing “bad” conflict habits so it is unrealistic to think a two hour or even a 5 day training program is going to “undo” those habits that don’t serve us. Training programs are an excellent start in creating awareness and building skills. The crucial next step is to implement those skills on a daily basis and ask for feedback. Individuals need the support system in place to get that feedback which is where coaching comes into play.

Think twice before you decide that skill development costs you or your organization too much. Need help in determining your costs? Give me a call and I can help you figure out what conflict is costing you and your organization.

As a Conflict Management Expert, Brenda Hooper helps individuals and organizations manage themselves more effectively during conflict and difficult discussions. For a list of her on-line and in-person services go to www.BrendaHooper.com

* Here is the Globe and Mail Report


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