Below you will find the most recent workplace conflict statistics, including employment lawsuit stats and employee engagement stats, followed by a step-by-step guide to mediation and conflict resolution in the workplace. Pollack Peacebuilding is a leading provider of workplace conflict management services nationwide. Contact us today if you need help resolving conflicts at work or transforming workplace culture.

Workplace Conflict Statistics: Updated 2019

Workplace Conflict & Employment Lawsuit Statistics

  • Employees in United States companies spend approximately 2.8 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. A full day of productivity each month. This is 2-1/2 weeks of productivity each year. (CPP Inc.)
  • 60% of employees never received basic conflict management classes or training for conflict resolution in the workplace. Of those who did, 95% state that the training helped them navigate workplace conflict positively and seek mutually beneficial outcomes. (CPP Inc.)
  • Companies with a healthy corporate culture report, on average, a turnover rate of just 13.9 percent compared to 48.4 percent at companies with a poor culture. (Columbia University)
  • In 2016, there were 97,443 workplace discrimination charges in the US, for which the EEOC collected $482 million in damages for victims in private, state, and federal places of employment. (EEOC)
  • Companies in the United States face nearly a 12% chance of being hit with an employment lawsuit. (Hiscox)
  • The average cost to a company for defense and settlement was $125,000. On average, those matters took 275 days to resolve. (Hiscox)
  • Most employment matters don’t end up in court, but for those that do, the damages can be substantial. The median judgment is approximately $200,000, which is in addition to the cost of defense. About 25% of cases result in a judgment of $500,000 or more. (Hiscox)

Further stats (CPP, Inc.):

  • 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

Employee Engagement Statistics

  • 51% of the U.S. workforce is not engaged (Gallup)
  • 51% of workers are looking to leave their current jobs (Gallup)
  • 67% of employees are extremely or very satisfied with their jobs (Aflac)
  • $11 billion is lost annually due to employee turnover (Bloomberg BNA) (Commonly cited statistic, source link unfound)
  • Cost of replacing entry-level employees: 30-50% of their annual salary (ERE Media)
  • Cost of replacing mid-level employees: 150% of their annual salary (ERE Media)
  • Cost of replacing high-level or highly specialized employees: 400% of their annual salary (ERE Media)
  • Companies that increase their number of talented managers and double the rate of engaged employees achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition (Gallup)
  • Each year the average company loses 20-50% of its employee base (Bain & Company) (Commonly cited statistic, source link unfound)
  • Customer retention rates are 18% higher on average when employees are highly engaged (Cvent)
  • The attrition rate of disengaged employees is 12x higher than highly engaged employees over the period of a year (Glint)
  • 88% of businesses plan to improve employee engagement in 2017 (Virgin Pulse)
  • 40% of companies are reporting loss of personnel as a top concern (SHRM)
  • 68% of the human resource professionals say last year they experienced recruiting difficulty and skill shortages for certain types of jobs (SHRM)
  • 83% of employers believe attracting and retaining talent is a growing challenge (Allegis Group)
  • 49% of HR leaders named retention and leadership development programs as the top priority among talent management goals (Saba Software)
  • Employee engagement programs can increase profits by $2400 per employee per year (Workplace Research Foundation)
  • An engaged worker aged 40-49 costs $127.76 per month in lost productivity due to unhealthy days, while an actively disengaged worker in the same age range costs $236.20—an 85% increase (Gallup)
  • Workers in the top 1% in terms of productivity add about $5,000 to profit per year, while a toxic worker costs about $12,000 per year (Harvard)
  • Disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion annually (The Engagement Institute)
  • 87% of companies said it cost $15,000 to $25,000 to replace a departed millennial employee (Millennial Branding/Beyond.com)
  • Disengaged managers cost the U.S. $77 billion to $96 billion annually (Gallup)
  • 44% of people report losing one hour or more per day in productivity due to stress. Another 37% report losing 15-30 minutes per day in productivity due to stress. Look around at the people you are working with. Those numbers indicate stress is affecting more that 80% of the workforce. (American Management Study)

Now you know the stats, so how do you resolve workplace conflict?

Conflict Resolution in the Workplace: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide to Co-Worker Mediation

by Jeremy Pollack, Principal, Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

Every manager in every company, small or large, knows the prevalence of conflict among coworkers. And in many cases, resolving conflicts at work becomes an ongoing job. If conflict is incessant at your company, it may be worth hiring a consultant or agency to help discover the systemic problems creating a culture of conflict at work. Whether problems between coworkers seem constant or sporadic, handling conflict resolution in the workplace can be difficult and uncomfortable for most managers. But it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t have the resources to bring in a workplace conflict management consultant or you would simply like to try managing the conflict on your own first, here is a definitive step-by-step guide that outlines the general process that we at Pollack Peacebuilding use to structure a conflict resolution between coworkers. This step-by-step guide can be used by managers or supervisors who are looking to mediate and hopefully resolve conflicts at work. And of course, if you need outside help mediating a work conflict, contact us at Pollack Peacebuilding. We focus solely on relational mediation services to rebuild peaceful, productive relationships.

Table of Contents

Phase 1: Invitation

Step 1: Acknowledgement

Step 2: Invitation to Private Conversation

Phase 2: Private Interviews

Step 3: Private Introduction and Assurances

Step 4: Private Grievances

Step 5: Private Appreciation

Step 6: Private Solutions

Step 7: Invitation to Facilitated Dialogue

Phase 3: Facilitated Dialogue

Step 8: Joint Introduction and Assurances

Step 9: Joint Appreciation

Step 10: Joint Grievances

Step 11: Joint Solutions

Phase 4: Accountability and Adjustments

 

Phase 1: Invitation

Step 1: Acknowledgment

First comes awareness of the problem… Let’s pretend that coworkers Joe and Jane are having problems getting along and working together productively. Either you notice the problems yourself, someone else at the company informs you of the conflict, or one of the parties involved (i.e. Jane or Joe) tells you about the issue. In any case, it has gotten to the point where work is being affected and other workers’ morale are negatively impacted. Many managers make the mistake of brushing conflicts under the rug, hoping it will just take care of itself or, at the very least, not affect work too negatively. Avoidance is rarely a good strategy, as conflict tends to fester and get worse. At some point, especially as the problem progresses and begins to affect the company in obvious ways, you will have to ACKNOWLEDGE a problem exists that is serious enough to warrant intervention. You decide to either hire a workplace conflict resolution consultant or attempt to manage the ordeal yourself. Either way, you will need to invite Joe and Jane to participate in the process.

Step 2: Invitation to One-on-One Conversation

workplace conflictSo you decide to manage the conflict yourself, at least initially. The second step in the process is to have one-on-one private conversations with each individual. This step is super important to allow each to freely and openly express themselves. Research has shown that free expression of grievances is a critical step in the reconciliation process. Yes, they will each likely try to present themselves as right and the other as wrong; but your job will be to remain neutral and to listen with compassion. It is important to validate how the individuals feel, not necessarily agree with their positions but let them know their feelings are important and their struggle is valid. You do this by listening empathetically to their side, putting yourself in each of their shoes though not necessarily agreeing with their positions. Sometimes, you will discover you clearly agree with one side over the other. Do your absolute best to get past the actual positions that you may or may not agree with and instead focus on how each individual is feeling and their underlying needs and interests.

Now, I have read other articles on this subject insisting NOT to meet with parties separately, as each participant is likely to present him or herself in the best light, which could bias you toward one side. Frankly, I couldn’t disagree more, and anyone who suggests that meeting separately is not a good idea, I seriously question their background as a conflict resolution consultant. On the contrary, meeting separately with parties is a frequent best practice in workplace mediation. Not to mention that if you are likely to become biased toward one side, that will happen whether in private or joint settings. The trick is using your mediator hat to stay above the positions in order to be helpful, which is why an outside conflict resolution consultant can be so beneficial. Additionally, as stated, parties need to express themselves freely at least once in the process, and allowing them to do so in front of each other runs a high risk of offending one another and reinforcing defenses, which will seriously impede the conflict management process. That all being said, I vehemently reject the suggestion that only meeting with parties together is a good idea; it is absolutely crucial to first meet with them separately.

So, let’s say you first decide to approach Jane with an invitation to participate. Perhaps she’s the first you approach because she seems the most approachable, and getting buy-in from one party often makes buy-in from the other a bit easier.

You pop into Jane’s office or catch her somewhere private, or you simply send her an email. In a friendly, calm tone, you tell her you’ve noticed that she and Joe have not been getting along very well and ask if she’d be willing to speak to you about the situation, preferably outside the office at a coffee shop or somewhere similar. Since you are not a neutral, independent consultant who can offer totally unbiased, non-interested counsel, I highly recommend having the initial conversation in a neutral space. Go to a nearby park, go to coffee, just get out of the office in order to eliminate some salience of the hierarchy involved in your manager-subordinate relationship. Having the initial conversation outside the office helps each of you see each other simply as human beings and lets her know you are serious about the conversation being a private matter.

In your invitation, assure Jane that the conversation will be “off the record” and totally confidential, that you will not share your conversation with anyone and there will be no report created in HR or anywhere else. Now, I understand there are legal considerations and this non-report suggestion might be difficult depending on your company’s protocol; however, this ability to have an off-the-record conversation can be crucial in allowing each individual to feel safe when sharing his or her story with you. Remember, you are effectively taking the place of a neutral consultant at this point, and a neutral conflict resolution consultant must always keep private conversations confidential for the process to work. If this is impossible and you cannot in good faith keep the conversation confidential, I highly recommend you employ the services of an outside consultant. Research has shown how important confidentiality is to an effective resolution process.

If Jane agrees to discuss the situation in a private, confidential setting, that’s great! Yes, you may be her boss and she may have felt she had no choice, but do your best to approach the situation in a manner that suggests her participation in this process is of her free agency and volition. Set a date to meet. Then, go to Joe and ask him as well.

Phase 2: One-on-One Interviews

conflict resolution in the workplaceAgain, in order to successfully conduct conflict resolution in the workplace, you must remain as neutral and unbiased as possible. So, this interview phase will require careful listening skills while removing your own interests, as much as possible, from the process. Bring a pen and paper to the interview sessions.

Step 3: Private Introduction and Assurances

You’ve arrived at the one-on-one meeting with Jane and gotten past the casual small-talk of greeting each other. Restate your purpose that you’ve noticed some problems between her and Joe and emphasize that you would really like to help. And once again, if possible, assure her that this conversation is totally confidential and off-the-record. It’s just you two as human beings, and you just want to hear her side of things.

Ask if it is okay for you to take some notes during your conversation, assuring her again that none of the notes will be shared with anyone else and it is purely for you to get really clear on the issues. You will even rip up the notes and discard them at the end of the process. Writing down what she reveals in short, bulleted points, not only helps you remember clearly what the issues are, it also helps participants feel heard and understood.

Step 4: Private Grievances

conflict management in the workplaceAsk Jane now to tell you anything and everything she is going through. Include all the problems she is having with Joe and work in general. Just let her talk, and write down the key points that you hear. While she speaks freely and openly, it will be your job to parse out the actual issues you are hearing and write them down in a clear, concise fashion. Again, a professional conflict management consultant is trained to hear the core issues underlying the stories people tell; but do your best in this case.

Once Jane is done expressing her grievances, read back the list you wrote to assure that everything you have noted sounds accurate and clear. Ask her if there is anything you missed or did not hear correctly. Finally, ask her if there is anything else she would like to add. Anything at all.

At the end of this grievances step, it may also be worthwhile to turn the table and ask Jane what she thinks Joe might be perceiving or resenting about her, including what Joe may be feeling and how he might believe he was wronged. Ask Jane if she can see Joe’s presumed perspective and if she can own up to any of it or agree with any part of what she believes Joe thinks and feels. This presumption may not be correct (and you will find that out during Joe’s interview), but it sets a foundation for each individual to begin taking the other’s perspective and potentially owning some of the roles each has played in the conflict.

Step 5: Private Appreciation

Next, ask Jane if she appreciates anything about Joe. Can she tell you some of the things she values or likes about him, the things she respects? Write these down as well. Be encouraging and positive during this step: “That’s really great to hear.”

Step 6: Private Solutions

resolve conflict at workFinally, ask Jane if she has any suggestions as to potential solutions to the problems she indicated. Anything she would like to see happen that she thinks would help the situation. Write those down as well.

At the end of the conversation, read back everything you wrote: “Just to be clear, the challenges are…, you appreciate…, and you would suggest…” Assure once again that everything was written correctly, and that there is nothing missing. Reassure her that you will not be sharing this with anyone and ask if it is okay to confidentially keep the notes for your next meeting.

Step 7: Invitation to Facilitated Dialogue

By the end of the conversation, you can determine if a facilitated dialogue or joint meeting between Jane and Joe, with you as the facilitator, might be necessary. Typically with conflict resolution in the workplace, a dialogue will be necessary. The only exceptions may be when there is only one major problem and the solution is not interpersonal as much as it is logistical, requiring a simple change in policy rather than a change in communication or interpersonal dynamics. Assuming the latter is not the case, close the conversation by asking Jane if she would be willing to have a meeting with you and Joe so you can possibly come to some agreeable solutions. If you are confident that a solution can be realized, express that to Jane. Again, be encouraging. This will help build her confidence and optimism in the process, which can enhance her participation.

Now do steps 3 through 7 with Joe. Once you are clear on both of their grievances, what they appreciate about each other, and any suggestions they have for solutions, you can use this information to facilitate a healthy, clear, productive dialogue between the individuals, with the aim of creating a mutually agreeable resolution.

Phase 3: Facilitated Dialogue

This phase is the crux of conflict resolution in the workplace. It is the phase where true change is possible, where transformations can begin for the individuals involved and the company as a whole. Your job as the facilitator will be to continue to remain neutral and unbiased and to thus consider both Jane and Joe’s perspectives as equally as you can. The dialogue should be held in a private, neutral area such as a quiet conference room in the building or offsite.

Step 8: Joint Introduction and Assurances

For this step, set up the chairs in a circle or triangle, preferably without anything (e.g. a desk) in between you. You are just human beings sitting in a circle and talking. For the grievances step (Step 10), you can move back over to the conference table. But for now, remain less formal.

When everyone is seated, start out by thanking them both for agreeing to meet and assuring them once again that all of this is confidential and will not go on record. If this is impossible due to your company’s protocol come, then I would highly suggest at least assuring them, in whatever way you can, that none of what is said today will ever come back to negatively affect them. If they do not feel totally safe and clear to express themselves in this setting, they will hold back, and the matter will most likely go unresolved. Once everyone feels assured and safe, continue.

Step 9: Joint Appreciation

I always like to start the dialogue sessions on a positive note that helps to connect the parties rather than focusing, right of the bat, on their problems. During the joint appreciation step, tell them something like: “During our conversations, I heard from both of you very encouraging points regarding what each of you appreciates and values in one another. Jane, if you wouldn’t mind, could you please tell us someone of the things you really appreciate about Joe?”

Now to some, this step may sound a little hokey, but I have done this countless times and it works so well for a number of reasons.
First, it begins to dissolve any notion that the two simply cannot work together and that the only connection between them at this point is a conflict. It equals the playing field and helps move beyond the identity of the conflict in order for the participants to start seeing one another again as just human beings, who actually do value, respect, and appreciate each other. This sense of perceived value and respect is the most important foundation for a conflict resolution in the workplace or in any setting. Expressing respect for and appreciation of one another also serves to drop the participants’ defensive guards, to soften their stances and positions, and to get to a place of agreement and caring. What’s really amazing about this step is that participants will often be surprised, even taken aback by hearing that the other actually respects and even cares for that individual as a person. This can be quite an amazing process to witness as a facilitator.

NOTICE that the order of appreciation and grievances for the private and the joint phases are reversed; it is important for people initially to get off their chest everything that is bothering them, to make mental-emotional space for the spirit of appreciation. And then during the dialogue, to start from a place of appreciation in order to lower defenses and then move into a very concise grievances area. That way, we get the parties’ basic needs of being heard, respected, and valued satisfied.

Step 10: Joint Grievances

mediating conflict between coworkers

Once you feel the appreciation has run sufficiently, and both have expressed their gratitude for whatever values they’ve chosen in the other, move into illuminating the participants’ grievances.

You, the facilitator, can be the one now to express very clearly and concisely what you heard and wrote down about the grievances and problems from each. I find it is often better for the facilitator to first express the grievances as stated in the private conversations and then ask each of them if there is anything you left out or not correctly relayed from your notes. If you ask them each to express grievances, as they did during your private conversations, things can get messy; because they are so close to the conflict, the parties’ articulation of it to one another may not be productive. Certain wording or tones, especially coming from the person with whom one is experiencing conflict, may start feeling like an attack and reigniting defensive walls; this could undo some of the work you did to lower defenses during the joint appreciation step and thus make getting to a solution more difficult. So, make the joint grievances step very concise, very clear, and very efficient. Remember, they already got a chance to express their grievances to you in a lengthy and perhaps more emotionally charged manner previously. Now it is time to be concise and matter-of-fact.

That being said, during this part, you will read from your notes. List off the grievances one by one. After you have told Joe and Jane what you heard from each of them, ask them if there is anything you left out, any additional grievances they remembered after your earlier conversations or anything else at all they would like to say or get off their chest in a respectful way.

At the close of this step, make sure each problem to be addressed is written out on paper in front of all of you. In other words, you now have a roadmap of the problems to solve, laid out in clear and concise bullet points.

Step 11: The Joint Solution

work conflictIt is time now to get into solution. This is the fun part, the brainstorming part. Tell Jane and Joe that you would like to engage in a creative brainstorming process to find some solutions. And if it’s okay, once again you’d like to write all your ideas down, which you will discard after the meeting. This can be on a large piece of paper in front of the parties or even on a whiteboard, assuming the board cannot be seen by anyone outside the room. Tell them that “During this process, we are first going to throw in all ideas without evaluating them. The ideas might be crazy, they might not work, but I’m going to write them down anyway. And then later we can evaluate and adjust them to determine which ones are actually doable and reasonable. Sound okay?”

First, you can write down any solutions that you heard during your earlier one-on-one conversations, which you already took note of. Then get new ideas from them as well, if any come up. This collaborative process is a great first step toward rebuilding a productive working relationship; we are teaching the individuals not to look at each other as the cause of the conflict but rather to look at the problems, as something altogether separate, as the cause.

As you brainstorm and collectively throw in ideas, write each solution down right next to the problem with which it corresponds. Some of the solutions may address multiple problems, so you can write the solution multiple times, next to each problem it addresses. Make sure you have at least one solution for every problem listed. The most difficult ones to figure out may take a while of brainstorming, conversing, and asking questions. But don’t stop until you have at least one productive way of making progress on each issue.

how manage workplace conflictThen, engage in a process of evaluation and adjustment. Some of the problems might have easy solutions, while others need a little bit more creativity and thinking outside the box. During the evaluation process, you may find that there is agreement on a potential solution or that if you just adjust the solution slightly or meet in the middle somewhere, the parties can both agree to a reasonable solution. Again, do not stop until you all come to a mutually agreeable and doable solution for each problem listed. If there are some problems that just seem to be at a stalemate or an impasse, you may ask the participants to simply think about the solution for a few days and then you can revisit with each of them. You might also ask if it would be okay to involve someone else in the company on just this issue, if you think that person’s experience or expertise would be particularly helpful.

At the end of the evaluation process, you should have most if not all of the problems addressed with at least one workable solution that is agreeable to everyone. Read the list of problems and solutions one final time to make sure each person is definitely okay with the solution and in agreement. If not, take time to tweak it until it becomes reasonable and agreeable to everyone.

After all agreements are assured, once again ask if there is anything left out, anything not resolved here. If so, repeat these steps and address the problems presented. If not, then great job! You now have a direction for moving forward and a foundation to rebuild a relationship, to invigorate co-productivity and collaboration, and to reestablish a healthy working environment.

Phase 4: Accountability & Adjustment

conflict resolution at workIt is now up to all three of you to implement and enforce some sort of accountability measures. For the first month, you as the facilitator and manager should check in with each person on a weekly basis to see how they are holding up their ends of the agreement and how the solutions are working. If someone is not living up the agreement, have a private meeting to discover what’s going on. If they are adhering to the solutions but the solutions simply aren’t working, another brainstorming session may be in order, and perhaps even involving an additional person at the company who you believe could be of help. If worse comes to worst and you seem to be at a loss for how to move forward, either because the parties are not staying in their agreed upon solutions or because you cannot seem to find solutions that work, contact a workplace conflict management company like Pollack Peacebuilding.

I know this process may seem exhaustive. But if you want to do the be a workplace conflict resolution facilitator, and an all-around great manager, this type of process will be necessary. Of course, if you need assistance with conflict resolution in the workplace, you could always give us at Pollack Peacebuilding a call. We’re passionate about helping to facilitate and rebuild relationships at work, at home, and in communities. Good luck and may the peace be with you!

Need help with conflict resolution in the workplace?

Pollack Peacebuilding Systems provides conflict management services, organizational analysis, and culture change programs through the U.S. Founded by anthropologist and conflict expert, Jeremy Pollack, PPS prides itself on transforming challenging workplace problems into opportunities for peace, productivity, and innovation. Get in touch today for a free consultation.