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How to Ameliorate Conflict Before it Escalates

  • Posted by: Ellen Kandell

Conflict in organizations can get very pricey. From litigation to replacing employees, the cost of conflict adds up quickly.

Did you know that…

  • The cost of defending an employment case up through trial ranges between $75,00 – $125,000 and to take a case to the jury ranges from $175,000 – $250,000
  • The cost of replacing talent that leaves due to workplace conflict can be as high as that individual’s yearly salary
  • Fortune 500 senior executives spend 20% of their time in litigation related activities
  • 85% of employees have experienced conflict in their working lives
  • 89% of employees have experienced a workplace conflict that has escalated
  • 25% of employees report that conflict results in sickness or absenteeism

Conflict is inevitable between human beings. Keep these 5 tips in mind to reduce its impact – including the impact on your company’s bottom line – and even grow from the experience.

  1. Deal with the conflict immediately. Call a meeting or arrange for a dialogue. Unattended conflict can get worse. And then it might be too late, too much damage has occurred for the relationship to be salvaged.
  2. Listen openly without any agenda. Clear away assumptions and narratives about “the other.” Listen with fresh ears and new eyes.
  3. Acknowledge feelings and emotions. Simply recognizing how a colleague or teammate is feeling goes a long way to resolving their concerns and turns down the heat of the moment. People won’t be willing to change their behavior unless their feelings are recognized.
  4. No back-channel communications. Create a culture of open dialogue where people feel safe to raise issues of concern.
  5. Ask “how can we grow from this conflict?” See conflict as a learning opportunity, a time to make some small changes or to learn about another person’s perspective. It’s hard, messy and difficult but it’s a catalyst for change.

Unresolved conflicts reduce your organization’s effectiveness and efficiency, harm the organization or team’s overall performance and hurt your public reputation. Keep these 5 techniques top of mind for when conflicts inevitably arise.

Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She is one of eight Maryland mediators featured on a statewide demonstration video of good mediation practice. Ellen is certified by the International Mediation Institute.  She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse clients in Washington, DC and the US. Get in touch with her via email, and follow her on LinkedIn, and Twitter.


Author: Ellen Kandell

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