Rarely do people enjoy arguing with others, and I’ve found that most leaders find that dealing with conflict can be an uncomfortable necessity. Research has also shown that 18-26% of a manager’s time can be spent dealing with conflict resolution – that’s a lot of hours on an aspect that most don’t find enjoyable! Unfortunately, however, it’s not something that can be ignored, although a lot try, even for a short while. But resolving a conflict in the workplace can actually be a rewarding aspect of your leadership skills and you can improve your credibility as a leader at the same time.
By way of example, if a co-worker is allowed to continuously turn up late for work without a discussion being held to change the behaviour, the rest of the team will be affected by the consequences, be that resentment in having to take up the slack, thinking they might reduce their hours accordingly, and losing respect for their manager’s ability to work with and engage their employees.
Below are some reasons why you can’t ignore conflict and address poor behaviour in your team:
Employee Morale: Not only are the other team members affect by poor behaviour from others, they can also make up their own minds about why it’s being ignored (including your poor management or that person being above reprimand for some reason). Being treated unfairly, or feeling that a situation isn’t being dealt with fairly is also extremely damaging to employee morale.
Productivity: When any team member is not working at their fullest capacity, productivity will obviously be affected – not only from that individual, but the consequences to the rest of the team. Dissatisfied employees discussing the issues in the tea station also means they are not working to their normal capacity.
Customer Service: You can also lose customers by lack of or poor service or them witnessing the poor behaviour first hand. Even employees discussing concerns outside of the office can be overheard and word of mouth effect the organisation’s revenue and reputation.
Retention: If your employees are stressed about issues in the workplace, are experiencing office “dramas” or they feel that themselves or others are being unfairly treated, then there is a risk that your top talent could leave for a better environment. And if employees don’t feel that they can talk to you, as they see poor behaviour being permitted, then you may only find out about their concerns when they hand in their resignation letter.
Credibility: It’s not surprising to know that if no action is taken, employees have zero respect for the manager involved. A credible leader is one that others want to follow, often because they feel that their opinions and concerns are listened to and their well-being is paramount – allowing a stressful conflict to continue will very quickly lose any credibility that you’ve previously built up.
Legal Issues: Either from the individuals involved in the conflict, or the concern from other employees that they need to go for external advice rather than talk to the managers as they have seen conflict ignored historically.
There are many leadership skills and communication skills that will help leaders to deal with conflict quickly and effectively. As a leader, knowing your fears and stress triggers will also help you identify whether you could be ignoring conflict and why. Management tools such as Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) will also help leaders to understand the dynamics in teams and how they can adapt their style to deal with conflict resolution.
But the important thing is to deal with conflict quickly and not to allow issues in the workplace to affect your team’s motivation, productivity and service.