Effective Workplace Conflict Resolution Will Save Employee Satisfaction and Money

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By Genevieve Douglas  


CHICAGO--Arguments may be a fact of the workplace, but they also are guaranteed to cost employers money, as well as reduce levels of productivity and employee satisfaction, according to Sue Jones, HR coach with KLS Group in Bend, Ore.

Finding ways to effectively resolve disputes among coworkers will pay off in dividends, Jones told the Society for Human Resource Management's Annual Conference & Exhibition June 17. She recommended that HR analyze any patterns involving conflict issues: where they occur, when, who is involved, and how they tend to arise.

The effects of workplace conflict include stress, frustration, anxiety, loss of sleep, absenteeism, employee turnover, injury and accidents, disability claims, and sick leave, Jones said, and a lot of this results in monetary loss for companies.

“Research is showing that managers spend anywhere from 25 percent to 40 percent of their time managing conflict,” Jones told conference attendees. Additionally, employees spend at least 3 hours a week dealing with conflict. “When you add up all that time, you've got a huge cost,” she said.

The key to a satisfactory conflict resolution is to identify which “conflict handling modes” the employees involved in the dispute are using.

These modes are:

• Competing/Controlling: where individuals are pursuing their own interests at the expense of others.

• Accommodating: individuals who put everyone else's needs before theirs and put themselves at a disadvantage.

• Avoiding: individuals who prolong, evade, and do whatever it takes to never address the conflict.

• Collaborating: individuals who really work to come up with a solution that satisfies the parties involved.

• Compromising: individuals who trade-off, or bargain, to resolve issues. It's satisfactory but not satisfying.


According to Jones, an avoider is the most difficult kind of person to get to resolve an issue, while a collaborator is the kind of individual that will arrive at the most ideal resolution.

Jones also advised HR professionals to be aware that the importance of a relationship between or among individuals may have an influence on how they choose to resolve the conflict. The more they care, the more they will be willing to collaborate or compromise, she said.

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