The Costs of Conflict

I read a lot about conflict and study business communications regularly.  I came across a couple of studies about the time and resource drain that conflict imposes on organizations.

85% of employees report being involved in conflict at work. What does this mean to you? Let’s find out.

Let’s be conservative and assume only 1 hour a week is being lost to situations where conflict has slowed work down.

1.  How many workers does your firm employ?     _____________
2.  Multiply line 1 by .025  (1 hr in a 40hr week)   _____________
3.  Multiply line 2 by 50 (weeks in a year*)             _____________
* no conflict during vacations (Ha!)
4.  Multiply line 3 by their average annual salary   _____________
5.  YIKES!!! The money you could be saving            _____________

It’s worse than that.

Managers spend 40 – 60% of their time navigating and dissolving conflicts in their organizations.

What does this mean to your bottom line?

1.  How many managers does your firm employ?  _____________
2.  Multiply line 1 by 2080 (# work hours/year)     _____________
3.  Multiply line 2 by 50% (.5)                                    _____________
4.  Multiply line 3 by their average annual salary   _____________
5.  YIKES!!! The money you could be saving            _____________

Conflict is a controllable cost.  It takes time to assess, time to disentangle and and time to resolve.  It requires that the parties are willing to come up with a solution that works.  Often times, much healing needs to occur before productive conversations can even begin.

Many people feel helpless and even hopeless about their ability to proactively resolve strong conflict.  There are several ‘interventions’ available to heal a broken situation.  Here is just one.

In any conflict there might be four aspects of the conflict at play:
1. Content – the ‘what’ of the conflict
2. Relationship – the ‘who’ of the conflict and their history together
3. Self-perception – the ‘ego’ of each party
4. Process – the ‘way’ we’ll solve this conflict.

Depending on the people and issue, one or two of these four might play a bigger role.  It’s important to clarify what the conflict is really about before trying to solve it.  Fixing a process issue when the relationship is damaged, won’t work until the relationship issues are addressed. Similarly, coming up with an agreeable solution when the process is still broken will just create more conflict in the future.

Next time you’re tempted to sweep an issue under the proverbial rug, take a minute to estimate the real potential cost of avoiding it.  Then engage the troops in dissolving the dispute.

Outside help may be necessary to navigate troubled waters, especially if you’re swimming in them yourself.  Unless the conflict completely insignificant, don’t let it fester for long.  Even seemingly innocuous issues can escalate until their are out of control and your profits are languishing with no hard cost explanation to justify poor results.

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