Conflicts at work, how to turn them into opportunities?
The Standard Webster English Dictionary lists more than 60 synonyms under the word conflict! It can take many forms and is the manifestation of tensions, oppositions, eventually clashes between individuals supporting differing viewpoints. It covers a large variety of situations where emotions are violently stirred and both parties feel threatened and unsecure. Conflict is omnipresent in our life and is part of our daily work life.
The workplace is a dynamic environment always in need of growth, change and transformation which all are causes for conflict generating stress and anxiety, loss of productivity and poor performance at work.
At the same time, conflict by turning attention to the root of existing problems is often the source of creative innovation. Learning to manage conflict brings important advantages to the organizations.
The question is how to mitigate the negative effects of the conflict and develop its positive advantages?
Disturbances to performing organizations
- Sources for conflicts
They are numerous, ranging from personality clashes, bad communication, unfulfilled expectations, resistance to change without mentioning external factors.
Cultural differences hold a special importance among them. The 2020 Workplace Culture has estimated the cost of workplace culture issues and turnover to over $223 Billion over 5 years
With an important emotional charge conflicts involving individuals have a very bad impact on the team which is put in danger. Organizational conflicts may be more complex. They relate to a fundamental disagreement about the objects, aims or objectives of the organizations and the means of achieving them.
- Negative cost incurred by the company and the individuals
For the company: According to a study conducted in the United States the time lost by US companies in dealing with conflicts amounts to $360 billion a year.
Time spent resolving the issues is visible to everyone, it drains resources which would be better used somewhere else and lead to poor management, project failure, loss of productivity.
For the employees: Individuals are suffering. Employees' engagement and team cohesion will falter while absenteeism, sickness, demotivation.
The negative financial and organizational disturbances are real but there are ways to turn them into beneficial values.
When they are timely and properly dealt with
Today conflict is widely viewed as essentially negative and to be erased from our organization as unethical. Its existence is often denied by fear of dealing with its consequences or concern that it would reflect badly on the manager or the affected team. Pretending is often the posture but definitively the worst solution.
Unavoidable they are part of a healthy relationship with people. it will not disappear. The question is not to try to avoid it but to learn how to manage it.
Skills to use to proceed with this process are not easy to master. They need to be learned, it takes time and require expertise. The intervention and guidance of a professional coach in this development is necessary.
Several Conflict management methods exist and they refer to the development and use of soft skills to turn the negative aspects of conflict into positive ones.
They can bring in positive benefits to the organization
When well managed conflict can bring a lot of positive outcomes, here are a few:
- Widen our environment to new ideas
Hearing another person's perception helps to shape and clarify our own ideas. It stimulates the generation of new ideas and promotes culture where diversity of opinions is encouraged. It provides a good opportunity to speak up in an open and nonjudgmental environment. It also push towards adjustment of ideas to others and their perspectives and lead to inn ovation.
- Impose effective communication skills
To avoid miscommunication and misunderstanding, communication skills will be improved. It involves being clear and succinct, using active listening along with the art of asking good questions with truth and authenticity.
- Set a shared purpose
The definition of a common purpose to all team members brings the focus on a common objective and its achievement rather than divergence of opinions. It does also foster cohesion between all team members. Cohesive teams are more successful, and it helps avoiding duplicate efforts and competition between team members.
Conflicts at work are real and pervasive. They come in several forms which can lead to severe disruptions within the organization if not handled timely and properly. It allows the team to deal with difficult situation, synthetize diverse perspectives and to ensure that solutions are well thought out.
Establishing a collaborative environment is key for turning the negative impacts of conflicts into positive one for the benefits of the organization and better work outcomes. The more we practice it the better business persons will become!