The Cost of Workplace Conflict

The cost of conflict in the workplace is often a mitigated expense. When I talk with managers about conflict resolution, I get feed back such as, “what you do is so needed in every organization” or “I can think of a number of people right now who could use coaching” and “I wish I was fully equipped (or had the time) at resolving conflicts in my department.”

Stuart Diamond, author of Getting More states, “people in conflict focus on blame, lashing out, and protecting themselves, instead of creating more value for the future.”

The reality is that this type of behavior creates conflict and its costs should not be ignored.

• In 2008, CPP Inc. commissioned a study on workplace conflict, and found in U.S. workplaces employees spent 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict. This amounts to approximately $359 billion in paid hours (based on average hourly earnings of $17.95), or the equivalent of 385 million working days.
• Employees waste an average of $1,500 and an 8 hour work day for every crucial conversation they avoid. (vitalsmarts.com)
• Not only do employees miss an average of 5 work days a year avoiding conflict, the extreme of losing (or letting go) an employee because of conflict, can cost 150-200% of their salary to replace them.

Employees’ worry about

• Confrontation
• Getting over looked
• Looking wrong (losing)
• Retaliation
• Helping others succeed

Why is conflict in the workplace so difficult to deal with? I believe that conflict, by and large, is not a result of an employee’s lack of talent. Conflict arises from:

• Personality differences
• Heavy / multi-task workloads
• Misunderstandings
• Personal/family concerns outside of work

I believe it is because conflict stems from the heart and dealing with that in the workplace is more difficult. Let’s face it, work is for creating products; no one wants to ask a fellow employee how home life is and be sucked into a litany of woe’s that cannot be easily resolved. We often think that taking a lunch to listen to someone’s problems will cause conflict when in reality it creates camaraderie, and a sense of support that could extend into why we all are working in the first place.

Conflict is not a dirty word, instead it is an opportunity to grow in understanding, to problem solve, and to lift others up. That may sound too soft for the workplace but I believe that we all want to be known for the good we do, and be supported when faced with life challenges. How hard would it be to spend a few more minutes of your day lending support that can keep conflict from getting out of control?

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