Conflict and its impact on the bottom-line

We live in a world of togetherness where our interactions provide great value. Those interactions at times lead to conflict. The word ‘conflict’ bombards our minds with undesirable results and relationships.  
 
We fail to take note of the productive aspects of conflict. A fact that is interesting is that a certain amount of conflict which is constructively resolved is essential for high performance and bringing in creative solutions at the workplace. However, an increased level of unresolved conflict leads to a loss of productivity.
 
According to a 2008 survey by consultants OPP, UK employees spend almost two hours per week dealing with conflict at work resulting in an annual “loss” of 370 million working days. The magnitude of loss due to unresolved conflict is tremendous in organizations.
 
There are two main ways in which conflicts are resolved, the healthy way and the unhealthy way. The healthy way of conflict resolution builds team bonding by causing those involved to change their attitudes and grow. It also results in problem resolution. This contrasts with the unhealthy way, where team morale is destroyed and team members become divided and polarized. Unhealthy conflict leaves the problem unresolved and leaches resources and energy from the core project at hand.
 
Conflict in organizations has been defined by Putnam and Poole (1987) as “the interaction of interdependent people who perceive opposition of goals, aims, and values, and who see the other party as potentially interfering with the realization of these goals”. 
 
According to a study on Organizational conflicts by the International Conference on Innovation and information management, Singapore, it was identified that 38 % of conflicts in India are not resolved. The study further pointed out that on most occasions, in India, conflicts caused due to personality/ego clashes, lack of trust, and power struggles are not resolved.
The challenge for any team is to learn how to disagree agreeably. In other words, proactively resolve and channelise conflicts into constructive benefits. The faster this is done the better it is for the organisation.
 
This can happen when there is an intentional preset, the context of ground rules to prevent, resolve and withhold conflict escalation. This is in contrast to just waiting for a conflict to happen and then looking for a way to manage it.
 
Breakthrough in the past years has designed and conducted programs for conflict resolution and prevention in organizations. Tools such as DISC profiling coupled with training programs help in preventing conflicts by enabling individuals to understand the personality types of their co-workers.
 
There is also another unique way of preventing and resolving conflicts, and that is through the drafting of a Social Contract. This contract is developed by the team and for the team. Hence, there is greater ownership. It also lends itself to be a proactive process of being accountable to the task, team, and organisation. This contract is signed by the team and followed as a culture to be accountable in preventing and resolving conflicts. At the end of the day, the social Contract is a shared deliverable and owned by the entire team. Breakthrough has worked with about six or seven groups in Bangalore and one in the USA and helped them draft a Social Contract.
 
It is important for organizations to pre-empt conflict situations and be prepared to manage them. This aspect is wonderfully brought out by celebrated poet and philosopher ‘Thiruvalluvar’, who wrote in Thirukural that
The fortune of a man who does not guard against failings before they Manifest will perish like a stack of straw before a flaming fire”.
 
Drawing parallels from this, organizations need to guard themselves against aspects like conflicts that threaten business interests. Hence, it is essential for organizations to be well-equipped to deal with conflicts. This is also an effective way of cost-cutting. Hence, dealing with conflicts should not be an aftermath but needs to be nipped in the bud.

 

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