Howard hates conflict. He prefers to ignore disagreements among his employees and hope they’ll either disappear or be resolved without his involvement.

Howard isn’t alone. In 2012, Healthy Companies International surveyed 27,000 employees, asking them to rate their managers on 20 behaviors. Though conflict happens in every workplace, 41% of employees felt their manager did not capably engage with workplace conflicts.

Why is conflict competence a requirement for leadership? Conflict is expensive in terms of increased costs and opportunities lost. Conflict contributes to half of all employee turnover, and it’s estimated that it costs at minimum 1.5 times the person’s annual salary just to replace them.

In addition, employees spend nearly 3 hours each week dealing with workplace disputes. Think of what could be accomplished with 3 additional hours per week across your entire team of people!

So how does Howard step up and deal with conflict?

  1. Figure out where you need conflict. Yes, some conflict is both inevitable and necessary. You want people to advocate for new ideas, speak up when they disagree and engage around issues that matter.
  2. Be clear about ground rules. Employees need to understand the guidelines for expressing discord productively. Humanergy’s ground rules include being direct, honest and respectful.
  3. Intervene if issues aren’t resolved. If people can’t work through disagreements, the leader must engage to develop a strategy. This may include facilitating a discussion between the feuding parties.
  4. Get real about how your culture contributes to unproductive conflict. Cultures that encourage competition rather than collaboration or consider differences in opinion a problem can encourage unproductive conflict.
  5. Model productive conflict. If the leaders engage constructively when discord or differences arise, employees will be much more likely to follow suit.

If conflict is a drain on money and productivity, it’s time to transform it from an expensive pain to one of your organization’s super powers.

Have a sure-fire method for wrangling unproductive conflict? Comment below or message us.


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