Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Workplace conflict equals lower productivity

The title of this post is likely not surprising: when there is negative workplace conflict, the workplace suffers. We all know that, or at least sense that, from our everyday workplace lives.

A recent study from the Harvard Business Review quantifies the cost of workplace conflict (the authors use "rudeness" and "incivility" in the workplace, instead of "conflict"). I encourage you to read the report.

The report, which is based upon a study of "several thousand U.S. managers and employees" found that, because of workplace rudeness and incivility:
  • 48% of employees decreased their work effort;
  • 47% decreased their time at work;
  • 38% decreased their work quality;
  • 66% said their performance declined;
  • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident;
  • 63% lost time avoiding the offender; and
  • 78% said their commitment to the organization declined.

These are staggering numbers. Just imagine if I could tell you, as a manager, that I could increase your employee's work quality by 10%--would you be willing to listen? I'm sure you would. Now look at these numbers again not in negative terms, but as opportunities to increase job satisfaction, company loyalty, and employee performance. If you had a conflict resolution procedure in your work force and could slash these percentages by 10%, how much more effective, and profitable, would your workplace be? How many more satisfied employees--and customers--would you have?

How different would our workplaces be if we learned to manage conflict, and channelled that negative energy into positive, creative ways to improve productivity and commitment to the organization?