Unless there’s a conflict crisis, the vast majority of conflicts fly under the radar; and the more senior managers are, the less they know!
This translates into lost productivity, in the form of wasted time, overlooked opportunities, loss of investment in skilled employees, degraded decision quality, absenteeism, lowered motivation, theft, sabotage, vandalism, restructuring, health costs and more.
It’s the normal, ‘everyday’ work disputes that cost so much. They’re the ones that we don’t even see happening. They’re the ones that we can’t even budget for!
How can these attitudes to conflict change? Most of us have never been taught to deal with conflict effectively. Mismanaged, avoided, or hidden conflict can be destructive without even being noticed. It is not cost effective for managers or supervisors to micromanage daily disputes, yet they are ultimately responsible for optimal productivity, which is hampered by conflict within their teams.
The key to a culture of conflict savvy behaviour in the first instance is that conflict be dealt with directly, at the lowest level, by the people involved. Besides being the cheapest method, it is vastly more effective.
With proper training and within the right environment, workers will collaborate to invent solutions that satisfy their interests and needs – a far better outcome than solutions imposed by a senior/ third party.
When people have the skills to confront problems and the prospects of improved work situations, they will gradually stop sweeping things under the rug: it is simply a matter of learning how to have a productive conversation after suffering anger, hurt, or humiliation.
Mervyn Malamed is an Organisational Conflict Management professional. Employees who are equipped to cope with crises and conflict carry a positive mind-set to friends, family and more. This exponential effect rubs off; it enhances lives and comes around to further enrich that same employee, co-workers, and the organisation itself.
With three decades in the jewellery industry behind him, and having built his own manufacturing, retailing, and consulting businesses in the US and in South Africa, he understands how productivity was reduced in his own companies through outdated and destructive conflict handling.
After some years studying the links between conflict management and productivity, it has become clear that massive opportunities are being missed. There is gross under-investment of time, money, skills, and ‘space’ in informal, interest-based options to deal with conflict.