Most work environments are wrought with myriads of problems. A common issue is employee conflict arising from divergent opinions, expectations and needs. Inability to agree on work assignments, disagreements over company policies and personality and style conflicts are prevalent in all work situations.
Some inappropriate coping mechanisms exhibited by employees during conflicts include: avoiding the situation, denying the existence of the issue and hoping that it will somewhat dissipate on its own, skipping the subject in question, emotionally reacting through becoming abusive aggressive, hysterical or frightening, apportioning blame to others, making excuses and handing over the situation to someone else. All the aforementioned responses are not productive while some are destructive (Neck, Smith, Godwin, 1997, p. 191).
Learning to manage conflicts is thus a fundamental issue for all stakeholders in the workplace. An interrelated maze of relationships based on trust, team work, quality, self-esteem, respect for boss, loyalty and morale exist in the workplace. The stakeholders in these relationships, business clients and the business entity can be adversely affected by conflicts. Effective resolution of conflicts impacts positively on work relationships whereas poor conflict management lowers productivity and impedes free expressions of views.
Employees need to understand when to intervene and when to let
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Conflicts resulted in sickness or absenteeism for 22 percent of employees in the United States. Conflict was a direct cause of project failure for 10 percent of employees. This is an illustration of the financial loses being incurred by firms owing to conflict. Simmering conflicts can result into: anxiety, stress or frustrations, sleep deprivation, strained relationships, grievances and legal suits, reduced productivity, heightened client complaints, sabotages, disability claims, injury and accidents. This factors push company overheads upwards.
Employees’ mental health is worsened by existence of workplace conflicts. The figures of employees seeking mental cure intervention due to workplace conflicts have risen from 23% in 1999 to around 30% in 2001. Research findings from UK point out that 46% of managers have witnessed an upward trend in workplace conflict in 2005. A 2005 Roffey Park survey established that 52% of managers in the UK have experienced harassment (Pammer, Killian, 2003, p. 22). Presenteeism, a situation whereby demoralized employees decrease morale in their departments, results owing to simmering conflicts.
Failure to perform their duties by dissatisfied employees leads to build-up of workloads for other colleagues thus lowering productivity. Half of employee turnovers are as a result of simmering conflicts. In excess of 90% involuntary quitting of jobs are caused by conflicts. Turnover is detrimental to organizations in terms of losing a qualified employee, hiring and training a replacement, reduced productivity of a new entrant and reduced morale for peers, managers and subordinates.
Training a new employee costs one and a halt times the employee’s annual salary. Tension and stress emanating form conflict situations decreases motivation and disrupts concentration. A twenty five percent drop in productivity, translating in reduction of a work week to les than 20 hours, results owing to adoption of inappropriate coping mechanisms by employees (Neck, Smith, Godwin, 1997, p. 198). Losses arising due to employee absenteeism in Canada stood at $8. 6 billion in 1998.
Canadian employees who are victims of bullying took seven extra days sick-leave as at 1998 annually than their counterparts who aren’t bullied. A direct relationship exists between incidences of employee conflict and theft and damage of materials and tools. Subtle sabotage of work procedures and managements initiatives is exhibited when employees aren’t in good terms with their employer. Stress originating from conflict can lead to errors and hence accidents in the workplace.
Accidents add to a firm’s costs in employee medical bills and legal procedures. Depression and high stress impact significantly on healthcare costs for employees. A 46% increase in such costs for stressed workers over normal counterparts was reported in 1998 (Allen, et al, 2002, p. 49). Health care costs are almost 50% more for employees with high stress levels. Workplace bullying and violence is more in conflict work environments. As at 2002, 36% of men and 42% of women were bullied in the USA.