"Everything that irritates us about others can lead
us to an understanding of ourselves"
Psychologist and Psychoanalyst
Conflict: What's the impact?
There are many kinds of conflict in the world: Society, community, family and workplace conflict. We focus on workplace conflict in our coaching, teaching and learning, but each one of these types of conflict has been shown to affect one another. Conflict at home impacts an individual at the workplace and can lead to conflict in the workplace, just as conflict in the workplace impacts individuals in the workplace and leads to conflict at home.
As we focus on workplace conflict, we work with clients to understand the impact of every type of conflict on any given situation and any given individual.
Workplace conflict has a significant impact on an individual’s life, leading to many things negative in ones physical as well as mental health. This effect, along with the direct impact on the workplace, cost organizations billions of dollars a year. This is not only a one or two country centric problem, but a global one as well. As organizations look to find ways of saving money, being more cost effective, more successful, and influence the bottom line, the area that has been given little attention is workplace conflict and the considerable cost an organization encounters from this.
Take a minute to think how much time you have spent over the last day, maybe the last week or so, in conflict. This can be engaged in a conflict situation yourself, listening to someone that was engaged in a conflict, or if you are a manager, how much time you spent managing or handling a conflict. We also have to understand there are many forms of conflict that we see every day at work, and they affect others that are not even part of the conflict. At a very minimum, how many times have you or have you seen another person just say they have had it for the day, they go on about their day not being productive, or just leave early.
If you have never thought about the cost of conflict, here are a few numbers that may interest you:
Cost of workplace conflict annually:
United States $359 billion (Pace, 2008; Inc. 2017)
Europe $43 billion (Dealing with Workplace Conflict, 2013)
Canada $16.1 billion on absenteeism alone (Howett, 2016)
Workplace stress accounts for $190 billion in annual U.S. healthcare cost (American Psychiatric Association, 2016).
Employees can spend 25% to 50% of their time a day on interpersonal conflict (Yingshan, Fangwei, Yue, Ning, 2016).
85% of employees have been involved in workplace conflict (Pace, 2008).
Managers and Supervisors spend 20% to 42% of their weekly activities in addressing workplace conflict (Oore, Leiter, & Leblanc, 2015; Pace, 2008; Dealing with Workplace Conflict, 2013; Dana, 2012; Desikan, 2018).
Spending that much time on conflict is a waste of an employee’s time, company’s money and resources, and many times leads to incomplete work or at the very least, wasted productivity.
In addition to these numbers, there is a significant effect on the employees outside of hard dollar costs that can be associated with workplace conflict, including extensive mental and physical health to employees, as well as effects on others they are close to such as their spouse and children.
It is important for all levels of employees to be aware of conflict management practices, how the company handles conflict, but more importantly each employee needs to be trained on what conflict is, identify conflict situations or signs, how to mitigate conflict situations or the effect on themselves during conflict situations, how to overcome difficult situations, and be part of the solution.
Many will debate if organizational conflict is good or bad, that is not what we are focused on. Our focus is on that we are well aware that workplace conflict and interpersonal conflict is going to occur no matter what the organization does, but just as many studies have shown, the important thing is to train and coach all organizational members on conflict management. This focus will allow them to better handle conflict and stressful situations, as well as cope and mitigate the situation for better and more productive experiences.