Workplace conflict is costly, in terms of morale and actual dollars. According to a study that CPP Inc. (publishers of the Myers-Briggs Assessment) commissioned, employees in United States companies spend approximately 2.1 hours each week involved in conflict. This amounts to around $359 billion in hours paid that are filled with – and focused on – conflict instead of on positive productivity. The figure is the equivalent of 385 million days on the job going toward the goal of arguing, as opposed to being put toward collaboration.
For the study’s purposes, the authors classified conflict as any disagreement in the workplace that “disrupts the flow of work.” If you’ve managed anyone in a business environment, you might be thinking of several – or many – instances that fit right into this definition.
Workplace Conflict: How Often Does it Really Happen?
The report “Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It to Thrive” states the following incredible statistics to help managers and business owners understand how pervasive conflict in the workplace really is. Some highlights are:
• 85% of employees experience some kind of conflict
• 29% of employees nearly constantly experience conflict
• 34% of workplace conflict happens among employees on the front line
• 12% of employees say they often see conflict within the senior team
• 49% of workplace conflict happens as a result of personality clashes and egos
• 34% of workplace conflict is a result of workplace stress
• 33% of workplace conflict is a result of heavy workloads
• 27% of employees have seen personal attacks arise from conflicts
• 25% of employees have witnessed absence or sickness due to conflict
• 9% of employees have seen projects fail because of workplace conflict
What is Management’s Responsibility?
Managers must realize that an inability to effectively handle workplace conflict and facilitate positive workplace dispute resolution costs them nearly a full day of productivity each month. This is 2-1/2 weeks of productivity each year.
It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that nearly all employees feel there’s a critical need for conflict resolution in the workplace. The aforementioned study found that 70% of employees believe workplace conflict management is a necessary and essential leadership skill. Also, an unsurprising 54% of employees feel managers could handle disputes better by addressing workplace tensions the moment they hit the surface.
How to Look at Workplace Conflict
As a business manager or owner, you don’t necessarily have to look at conflict as something that only brings about negative results. In fact, you shouldn’t view it this way at all. When approached as a vehicle for stimulating progress, strengthening relationships, and deepening trust among employees, conflict can be transmuted to boost productivity and enhance a company’s bottom line.
Conflict resolution skills are sorely lacking in the workplace because they’re rarely taught as a core part of education leading to a workforce environment. Most people who enter the workplace don’t have a clue as to how to prevent or manage conflict or how to transform disputes into a greater understanding of cooperation, thus looking for a win-win.
Training is the number one way that a positive outcome can arise from conflict. But, the CPP Inc. study found that nearly 60% of employees never received basic conflict management classes or lessons. Of those who did, 95% state that the training helped them navigate workplace conflict positively and seek mutually beneficial outcomes.