Conflicts at work
Research (OPP, 2008) found that the majority of employees (85%) have to deal with conflict to some degree and 29% do so ‘always’ or ‘frequently’.
The primary causes of workplace conflict are seen as personality clashes and warring egos (49%), followed by stress (34%) and heavy workloads (33%).
Cultural differences are also often mentioned as a cause of conflict. Unsurprisingly, poorly managed conflicts have a cost attached to them: the average employee spends 2.1 hours a week dealing with conflict. For the UK alone, that translates to 370 million working days lost every year as a result of conflict in the workplace.
One in six (16%) say a recent dispute escalated in duration and/or intensity, only 11% of those surveyed have never experienced a disagreement that escalated.
Various negative outcomes arise from conflicts. 27% of employees have seen conflict lead to personal attacks, and 25% have seen it result in sickness or absence. Indeed, nearly one in ten (9%) even saw it lead to a project failure.
41% of employees think older people handle conflict most effectively, so life experience evidently helps people become more effective. The skill of leaders in this regard is the key determinant, however. Seven out of ten employees (70%) see managing conflict as a ‘very’ or ‘critically’ important leadership skill, while 54% of employees think managers could better handle disputes by addressing underlying tensions before things go wrong.
However, there is an evident discrepancy between how well managers think they handle conflict and how well they actually do: a third of managers (31%) think they handle disagreements well, but only 22% of nonmanagers agree. Furthermore, nearly half of non-managers (43%) think their bosses don’t deal with conflict as well as they should, compared to only 23% of managers who share this view.
Training is the biggest driver for high-quality outcomes from conflict. Less than half (44%) of all those questioned have received training in how to manage workplace conflict.
Impact of training in Conflict Management
Where training does exist, it adds value: over 95% of people receiving training as part of leadership development or on formal external courses say that it helped them in some way. A quarter (27%) say it made them more comfortable and confident in managing disputes and 58% of those who have been trained say they now look for win–win outcomes from conflict.
85% of people change the way they approach conflict over the course of their working lives; they become more proactive and take it less personally as a result of experience.
Among all employees, 76% have seen conflict lead to a positive outcome, such as better understanding of others (41%) or a better solution to a workplace problem (29%). This figure rises to 84% and 81% in Brazil and the US, respectively – the countries where training is most common. Belgium and France, where employees experience the least training, also have the lowest incidence of positive outcomes. This shows a clear link between training in conflict management and conflict’s impact as a catalyst for positive change.
Impactris enables you to discuss conflicts and to resolve them constructively.