In most organizations, the result of the recent recession is an environment brewing with the right mix of stress and concern to breed an unprecedented amount of conflict. Employees lucky enough to keep their jobs are burned out and overworked. Leaders reeling from blows to their bottom line are doing their best just to stay afloat. Everyone is on edge.
Unfortunately, while the conditions are perfectly suited to breed conflict, human beings are perfectly incapable to deal with it.
According to our recent study, 95 percent of a company’s workforce struggles to confront their colleagues and managers about their concerns and frustrations. As a result, they engage in resource-sapping avoidance tactics including ruminating excessively about crucial issues, complaining to others, getting angry, doing extra or unnecessary work, and avoiding the other person altogether.
But while unresolved conflict is never a positive thing, our research revealed the ramifications of conflict go far beyond inconvenient. In fact, avoiding conflict is extremely costly.
We found that employees waste an average of $1,500 and an 8-hour workday for every crucial confrontation they avoid. In extreme cases of avoidance, an organization’s bottom line can be hit especially hard. In addition, a shocking 8 percent of employees estimate their inability to deal with conflict costs their organization more than $10,000. And one in 20 estimates that over the course of a drawn-out silent conflict, they waste time ruminating about the problem for more than 6 months.
The research confirms that those who know how to speak up and hold crucial confrontations waste significantly less time complaining, feeling sorry for themselves, avoiding problems and getting angry. As a result, these people are significantly more productive and influential.
The good news is that speaking up and resolving conflicts is a skill set anyone can learn and master. Here are four tips for confronting your colleagues in a timely and effective manner:
- Confront the right problem. The biggest mistake people make is to confront the most painful or immediate issue and not the one that gets them the results they really need. Before speaking up, stop and ask yourself, “What do I really want here? What problem do I want to resolve?”
- Rein-in emotions. We often tell ourselves a story about others’ real intent. These stories determine our emotional response. Master communicators manage their emotions by examining, questioning and rewriting their story before speaking.
- Master the first 30 seconds. Most people do everything wrong in the first “hazardous half-minute”—like diving into the content and attacking the other person. Instead, show you care about the other person and his or her interests to disarm defensiveness and open up dialogue.
- Reveal natural consequences. The best way to get someone’s attention is to change their perspective. In a safe and non-threatening manner, give them a complete view of the consequences their behavior is creating.