Measuring and Managing Conflict
People are an organization’s greatest asset. These same people can also be the source of some of your greatest frustrations including conflict. You can read about some of the most common types of conflicts here. In addition, conflict can be costly.
An article by Helmut Buss suggests that these costs are often unmanaged as many organizations see them as being unmeasurable, part of the cost of doing business, or fail to realize how conflict adds to costs. Here are some ways Mr. Buss suggests that conflict can eat into your profits.
- Low Productivity
- Increased Absenteeism
- High Turnover
- Your organization’s’ reputation (this can affect the ability to attract good talent)
- Stress (creating health issues)
The article provides a matrix with good detail not only on these and other areas of conflict but how they are measurable and how to measure them.
Of course, we all know the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That is true for conflict as well. Some of the ideas around preventing conflict are:
- Hiring good people
- Creating a culture of respect and tolerance
- Encouraging healthy conflict
- Training around handling conflict
However, we all know that conflict is going to occur, regardless of efforts to prevent it. We are, after all, only human. Therefore, another way to address conflict is to understand how to better manage it.
An idea that falls into both the prevention and managing arena are behavioral assessments. Depending on the assessment you use, team members will have information on one another’s behavior style, motivators, emotions, and EQ information. This is important because It provides each team member’s communication style, what motivates them and other information that helps promote understanding which, in turn, helps improve communication and the management of conflict. Other ideas include:
- As always be aware of your own behavior. Are you being too aggressive, too laid back, too analytical, or too excited and coming off as superficial? Overextending our own behavior styles can become a barrier to communication creating conflict.
- Create a culture of open communication, positive dialog, and allowing everyone can present their viewpoints. When employees feel no one listens to their point of view, feelings of disrespect creep in leading to employee disengagement. Holding regular feedback or brainstorming sessions would be an ideal tool to help create a culture of open communication.
- When conflict does rear its ugly head, it’s important that people understand the best language to use when in a discussion. Here are a few examples:
- Use statements like: “When this happens…” rather than “When you…”
- Avoid using absolutes like always, forever, never, etc. “You always ignore my ideas.”
- Practice active listening. Pay attention to what the other person is saying and paraphrase to be sure you have a clear understanding.
- Find common ground and areas of agreement
- Try to talk things out in a calm manner. Ask to set a convenient time and place to speak with the other person where you won’t be interrupted. practice the items above. Be sure to practice the good habits above.
Conflict can be destructive and costly. However, prevention and control of conflict can pay off in many ways such as better relationships, increased collaboration, and better profits.
Buss, H. (2011). Controlling Conflict Costs: The Business Case of Conflict Management. Journal of the International Ombudsman Association. Vol 4, #1.
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