Transformative Conflict Management

Conflicts in organizations cost time and money

Conflicts in the workplace - and the resulting absenteeism from work - can have quite drastic and negative consequences, especially when they drag on for a long time. The schedules get messed up, non-involved people have to work overtime, the work atmosphere becomes tense, the quality and productivity of the work decreases, customers and thus profits are lost, the company image suffers damage, conflict absenteeism arises (often in the form of sick leave) as well as long-term absence of valuable employees, and in extreme cases it even leads to the termination of employment contracts.

Workplace conflicts can occur at all levels and between all actors of a company or organization, in a setting with or without trade unions. They can usually be traced back to conflicts between employer(s)/manager(s) and employee(s), between colleagues, or within and between (management) teams and departments. Territorial and competence issues often play a role at the horizontal level, while at the vertical level it is mainly about power and the constant tension between control and autonomy. However, the cause may just as well lie with an employee who is in conflict with himself, is dissatisfied with himself and shows little self-esteem and contentment with himself.

The reasons for conflict are many, so here is a non-exhaustive list: clashes between personalities and egos, stress, high work pressure, insufficient resources, poor leadership at higher levels, no clear communication, too little honesty, poor line management, unclear definition of the functions, lack of clarity about responsibilities, clash between different norms and values, poor composition of the teams, abuse of power, taboo topics such as internal organization, poor performance management, intimidation and bullying, discrimination ... Even an innocent event, such as not taking feedback seriously can already be a reason. In addition, a conflict often arises from the mere suspicion of one of the above reasons; it is sufficient for someone to interpret a situation or behavior in a certain way (even without there being a concrete reason).

Conflicts in the workplace are increasingly common in today's modern organizations. There is more diversity at all levels, talent is becoming more assertive, working conditions are becoming more flexible, work is done on a project basis and there is a strong emphasis on individual performance. All this simply leads to conflict.

It’s crucial to consider that workplace disputes come at a cost, especially the poorly managed ones. I therefore strongly recommend making the cost measurable and putting conflict management on the board's agenda. By substantiating the figures, you create a reliable method to chart the financial costs of conflicts in the workplace and can thus also steer them in the direction of growth.

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