The Cost of Ignoring Your Office Conflict
One of the most common leadership approaches to office spats or conflict is to ignore or “let it work itself out.” While this approach brings mild immediate relief to the leader, it’s often temporary and short-sighted. Big problems are the product of small-problem neglect.
Prolific author David Augsburger once wrote: “The more we run from conflict, the more it masters us; the more we try to avoid it, the more it controls us; the less we fear conflict, the less it confuses us; the less we deny our differences, the less they divide us.”
The impact of big office conflict is typically three-pronged: the employees, the patients or customers, and the employer. But let’s mainly focus on the employees themselves because this is where the problem begins, and where you have the most control to address and end it.
Simply put, office conflict makes otherwise great employees hate their jobs. They will loathe their co-workers, boss or supervisor, and even patients. This doesn’t happen all at once, but the longer a problem goes un-addressed the greater the potential for inter-office factions, gossiping, and other divisive outcomes.
As you might guess, this not only diminishes their efficiency, quality of work, and productivity, it kills it. And, thus, their job performance will quickly become yet another issue for you to address.
If you decide to keep them and work it out, it will be necessary to continue to monitor their performance to see if it returns or will need some encouragement. If you decide to dismiss them, you are looking at having to recruit, interview, hire, and train another employee, and all the associated costs involved.
Then there’s the trickle-down effect of the behavior and outcomes for even just one employee. Other employees will no doubt take note of the extra monitoring or dismissal and become more fearful of their own jobs, creating an increased wedge between employer and employees.
Finally, none of this happens in an interoffice vacuum. Patients are also impacted and that leads to retention, production, and an impact on the very purpose for which you are in business. And that, finally hits you as the practice owner or manager – your livelihood. The long-term success of your business depends on your leadership in times of trouble and putting out small fires to avoid big ones.
If you hadn’t thought much about it before this article, hopefully you are reminded of the importance of immediate action to address office conflict. Don’t let the small squabbles turn into huge problems. Here are a few tips.
It can’t be understated enough how important communication is, even if you are not experiencing office conflict. If you are not having regular staff meetings and one-on-one meetings with individuals you are creating an environment that is ripe for conflict. Staff need the opportunity to freely and fearlessly express problems. If they don’t trust you as a leader in sharing this information, they will do it with someone else and that leads to the gossiping, factions, and other divisive behavior mentioned earlier.
Watch for Warning Signs
Sometimes an employer or boss is aloof initially to problems because employees try to keep them under wraps out of fear. Meetings, mentioned above, will help alleviate some of that fear, but be on the watch for small signs of discontent. Employee exchanges that include negative or abnormal verbal and non-verbal cues to one another deserve your attention. This might include eye-rolls, avoidance, sarcasm, and tones in the voice that sound different than normal or less than pleasant or personable.
Hire a Professional
Many business owners love what they do and are exceptionally skilled at it, but hate dealing with conflict. “Why can’t everyone get along?” is a common lament you might regularly ask yourself. While you may feel poorly equipped to handle these issues, there are ways to not only improve, but also help you quickly gain control, or even prevent problems, without looking like the “bad guy.”
At Dolak Dispute Resolution, we have lots of experience in working with office conflict and have successfully helped many leaders navigate them to feel empowered and in better position to deal with even the most impossible of problems. There are lots and lots of techniques we use, but they are unique to each office’s situation and customized to fit your culture and dynamics.
Visit our website at dolakdisputeresolution.com or call us at 817-781-7910 to learn more today.