Anger, Conflict, Confrontation & Culture Creation

Everyone is super busy at work. Doing more with less causes stress!  We all know this.  Stress can easily lead to tension, misunderstandings and conflict at work. Workplace stress combined with the increased occurrence of workplace violence results in a greater feeling of vulnerability by your employees. Leaders need to understand these stressors impact your employees’ ability to perform at optimal levels and thus impact the achievement of organizational goals

As Culture Creators, leaders and HR professionals, we need to focus on creating a workplace culture of respect and civility. Equally as important, we must foster a culture in which conflict is identified at an early stage and proactively addressed in a healthy and positive manner!    

The impact conflict has when it escalates into personality clashes or warring egos can be huge. According to a study commissioned by CPP Inc., publishers of the Myers-Briggs Assessment and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, the U.S. spends more than $359 billion in paid hours (the equivalent of 385 million working days) wasted each year because of workplace conflict.

Here are some tips to guide those responsible for facilitating the resolution of conflicts that may arise at work:

  • Don’t Avoid Conflict!  It won’t just go away. Conflict can be healthy or unhealthy, but it requires the attention of the manager and HR. Thomas Isgar, author of The Ten Minute Team said, “Conflict can destroy a team that hasn’t spent time learning how to deal with it.”
  • Facilitate a meeting with the employees.  Start by setting ground rules:
    • The discussion needs to be solution not blame focused. It is about resolution, not about being right.
    • Attitudes need to be checked at the door.  Snarky will not be accepted. If the attitude enemy sticks it’s ugly head up during a meeting. Stop the conversation and correct the course.
    • Let the parties involved know that you will not choose sides.
  • Let both parties share their point of view and concerns. Respectfully! 
  • Consider using a process adapted from Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Ask each employee to identify what the other employee can do more of, do less of, stop doing and start doing.
  • Ask each employee to discuss and commit to making the change(s) necessary to resolve the conflict. Have both parties commit to noticing when the other person has made a change, even if it is small and commit to treating each other with dignity and respect.
  • If one or both are unwilling to genuinely and continuously work toward sustained resolution of the conflict, they may need to hear that the negative impact on workplace culture and productivity may result in the need for disciplinary action on one or both parties.
  • Express confidence in their professionalism and ability to resolve their differences and continue to contribute to the organization.
  • Establish a schedule for follow up, check-in meetings to monitor progress.

Remember, an organizations’ culture is driven by the actions of those at the top and what behaviors they allow and reward. If an organization’s leaders model and steward a culture of civility and healthy conflict resolution, others will follow. We’re designed to thrive, learn and perform at optimum levels in a safe, civil and positive workplace culture where conflict is addressed as an opportunity for positive change and growth.

EANE offers public and onsite training to foster the growth of leadership and staff competencies in the area of communication and conflict resolution – Check out our “Conflicts Can Be Productive” training. We also offer conflict resolution intervention services.  We are prepared to assist you in the creation of a civil conflict resolution culture!