Blog by Claire Sherwood
Workplace Conflict can have a hugely negative impact on organisations ...CBInsights estimates that conflict costs UK business £33 billion per year, taking up 20% of leadership time, potentially losing up to 370 million working days and time lost equating to 60 million hours every week.
Recently there has been more focus on workplace wellbeing with initiatives being put in place to manage issues like workplace stress, anxiety and depression however have you thought about the impact conflict has on these issues?
A recent study by the Mental Health Foundation found that nearly two-thirds of people have experienced mental health problems including 33% of UK workers reporting they regularly experience sleepless nights due to stress – all figures which can be linked back to the enormous lost working days figure above.
Workplace conflict encompasses a whole range of topics which can range from simple disagreements to destructive behaviour patterns. A great leader needs to be able to differentiate positive conflict with negative conflict. What does this mean?
Every organisation experiences some form of conflict and those that fail to acknowledge it’s happening are either not aware that it is occurring or are choosing to ignore it. According to the ‘University of Colorado Faculty and Staff Assistance Programme ’Managers spend a minimum of 25% of their time settling conflict in the workplace’ so no wonder its stated as the number one leadership challenge and an essential skill to master in order to drive a successful organisation.
Conflict can be differentiated into ‘Destructive’ conflict which is unhealthy for an organisation and Productive conflict which is healthy for an organisation to experience. Effects of destructive conflict include poor company reputation, low employee morale, damaged business relationships, loss of customers, increased staff turnover, decrease in productivity, loss of good talent and missed opportunities, all contributing to loss of revenue.
Productive Conflict may sound like a contradiction, but in fact research has shown that healthy conflict creates successful organisations. Conflict is necessary for effective problem solving and for effective interpersonal relationships. When people can disagree with each other and lobby for different ideas, your organisation is healthier, as disagreements often result in a more thorough study of options and better decisions and direction. Productive conflict can provide increased learning development, increased employee retention through collaboration, decreased employee absenteeism and produce creativity and innovation which all contributes to an increase in work performance.
Modern organisations are realising the benefits of engaging in productive conflict, instead of stifling employee opinions and apportioning blame and investing in upskilling line managers who lack confidence and competence to deal with conflict situations effectively. As HR professionals are only too aware, resolving conflict is a tricky skill to master but if not one that should be ignored.
What is your organisation doing to minimise destructive conflict and to optimise productive conflict?