A serious workplace problem – “Conflict” (HPtE #10)

In the last post, 22 serious problems when people compete for time and money (HPtE #9), I covered some of the symptoms of the conflict that occurs when people compete for time and money to deliver on their particular interest (one of the 3C’s). As was pointed out in the comments some of the behaviours listed are at the extreme end of the conflict. The most widely-understood paradigm for understanding conflict is “fight” (i.e. to compete and win the conflict) or “flight” (i.e. to avoid people with whom one is in conflict). Any level of fight or flight behaviour will have a negative impact on performance.

Research suggests that employees can spend as much as 42 percent of their time engaging in or attempting to resolve conflicts and over 20 percent of managers’ time is taken up by conflict-related issues.

In “An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization” the conflict is described as a “second job”:

“In most organizations nearly everyone is doing a second job no one is paying them for–namely, covering their weaknesses, trying to look their best, and managing other people’s impressions of them. There may be no greater waste of a company’s resources.”

Rober Kegan

Masters and Albright, in their book The Complete Guide to Conflict Resolution in the Workplace, point out that most people don’t realise how workplace conflict occurs, are often not even consciously aware of conflicts, and that managers, as well as their employees, are rarely trained to resolve conflicts constructively.  Even fewer people realise that the conflict is caused by people trying to deliver solutions to their particular interest at the expense of the others.

Cloke and Goldsmith, in their book Resolving Conflicts at Work: Ten Strategies for Everyone on the Job, argue that workplace conflict results in significant economic and emotional losses including litigation, strikes, reduced productivity, poor morale, wasted time, employee turnover, lost customers, dysfunctional relationships with colleagues, destructive inter-departmental battles, and stifling rules and regulations. 

Clearly, confronting and managing organisational conflict presents a major challenge to organisations that wish to deliver sustainable high performance. Organisations that fail to address the conflict between delivering on all 3C’s run the risk of a passive-aggressive culture, delivering poor consumer value and commercial failure.

Keep up to date with the latest articles and news on High Performance through Engagement:

P.s. Here is a link to the next post: The impact of conflict in an organisation (HPtE #11)