Conflict is a normal part of life. Whenever people interact with each other there is always the potential for conflict. Some conflict is good. It allows us to learn from differing points of view, can increase creativity, contribute to new ideas and even productivity in the workplace. However, harmful conflict can have a detrimental affect on individuals and organizations. It can be disruptive, non-productive and damage relationships.
It is estimated that about 85% of employees experience workplace conflict. It is further estimated that employees spend about 2.8 hours each week managing conflict. At this rate, conflict takes a tremendous toll on the mental, physical, emotional and overall well-being of individuals, and the productivity, profitability and work environment of businesses and organizations.
On top of the already significant impact of conflict, the pandemic is making matters worse. Conflict within families in the form of domestic violence has increased. Non-familial violence is also on the rise. Also, health concerns, child care issues, finances, etc., can impact on how an individual behaviors or performs at work. Sources of workplace conflict includes what is going on outside of the workplace. People are affected by what is happening at home, in the community even around the world. This can have a negative affect on individuals that can result in conflict in the workplace. This impact on conflict in the workplace can occur whether people are working in-person or virtually.
When conflict appears in the workplace, it is important to be sensitive to the possible pandemic impacts. Quickly identifying when someone might be experiencing conflict, addressing the conflict situation and its sources, and offering assistance in managing through that workplace situation. It is also important to recognize when outside assistance might be appropriate (i.e. Employee Assistance Program (EAP)) to properly address the situation.
Staying safe during the pandemic goes beyond physical health, vaccines and masks. Managing conflict amidst the negative impacts of the pandemic is critically important.