In total, that is 385 million days, which amounts to $359 billion in paid hours that are focused on conflict instead of on positive productivity.1 For 25 percent of these employees, avoiding conflict led to sickness or absence from work in the past.2 The goal for organizations today should not just be for their employees to resolve, manage, or avoid conflict. The goal should be to address the root of the conflict, which requires bigger, bolder steps than one day of training can achieve.
More often than not, the respect that employees have for one another, and the corporate culture that exists, correlate with the number, severity, and duration of conflicts in the workplace. In this guide, we will introduce you to a culture of respect, the principles that need to be ingrained into the fabric of your organization to make it a reality, and how an experienced training partner with the right tools and team can help you do so.
It is hard to believe that organizations want employees calling in sick because of conflict, or leaving a job to escape it, and yet that is what’s happening. Employees are telling us they want a solution. It is time we delivered.
In a study conducted by CPP Global, 60% of employees surveyed had never received basic training for conflict resolution in the workplace.3 The effect this can have was summarized in a Globe and Mail article which stated:
“Leaders and employees who are not trained in conflict resolution often do not understand that conflict can be resolved as quickly as it comes on. Conflict resolution skills regardless of an employee’s role is necessary because the fact is human beings always have different filters of the world that result in different perceptions, beliefs and values. This is expected and normal. As result it should be expected that normal human beings will have disagreements sometimes. But when they are not resolved in a collaborative way and instead are left to fester, then the conflict has the opportunity to escalate.4”
While providing effective conflict resolution training as part of a broader organizational training and development program is an essential step, it is not the only one you should be prepared to take. In order to minimize the number and severity of conflicts, and ultimately build a culture of respect, organizations must be prepared to deal with more complex challenges related to corporate culture, leadership, and organizational values.
To tackle such challenges may require undergoing a culture transformation, which can take place within a single department or throughout an entire organization, depending on the structure of the organization and the depth of the problems causing conflicts. It involves changing the behavior of all employees and leaders through training, mentoring, coaching, and a variety of other tools and activities. A culture transformation asks employees and leaders to approach work, relationships, and accountabilities with different skills and mindsets.
The result of such a comprehensive corporate culture initiative, will be to build a workplace where your employees and leaders are focused on showing respect for one another through their behaviors and actions. In such a culture, conflict should rarely, if ever, escalate to the point of requiring formal resolution. In fact, companies with a healthy corporate culture report, on average, a turnover rate of just 13.9 percent, compared to 48.4 percent at companies with a poor culture.5
If conflict is negatively impacting engagement, collaboration, innovation, employee retention, and so forth, and training is no longer fixing the problem, an intentional investment of time, money, and resources towards a culture transformation can be exactly what your organization needs to move forward.
"Conflict resolution skills regardless of an employee’s role is necessary because the fact is human beings always have different filters of the world that result in different perceptions, beliefs and values."
Conflict stems from how employees interact and engage with one another and the actions they take, which is exactly what defines a corporate culture. For example, if employees are often abrupt, quick to pass judgment, and even rude with one another, this creates a toxic corporate culture. On the other hand, employees who value one another’s differences, actively listen, and show patience, are more likely to embody a corporate culture that is respectful and positive for all.
If you want to create a corporate culture like the latter example, there are specific principles your organization must adopt from the top down, in order to build a culture of respect. From executive leadership, to frontline leaders, to new hires, the following principles will need to become the threads in the fabric of your company culture.
Diversity in thought, experience, and roles in an organization is something to be celebrated, cultivated, and embraced. It is incredibly powerful, yet can cause serious conflict if we unconsciously force people into doing things a certain way – perhaps a way similar to how we would do it. In doing this we neglect to recognize how their unique attributes, experiences, and thoughts could result in a previously unheard-of approach or solution. In this way, a respect and value for individual uniqueness is extremely powerful. While colleagues are not always going to agree on the charted course forward, recognizing and respecting the differences that exist and creating an understanding of why, goes a long way.
Hold Others in Esteem
Esteeming others means valuing people for who they are, not for what they can do for you on the job. Every individual in an organization is valuable, unique, important, and capable. They have their own thoughts, desires, challenges, and experiences. Yet, all too often we tend to be influenced by the position a person holds and their relationship to us. It is simple to hold people in esteem who are above us within the organization in rank, prestige, or in other tangible ways, such as their earning power or skills. However, it is quite a different thing to hold people in esteem simply because they are human beings. This is especially true if they are below us within the organization, or their true potential has not yet been discovered within the organization.
If you are committed to building an organization where conflict is less persistent, holding others in esteem is a key first step, as it is vital in building respectful relationships between colleagues. It also allows individuals to begin to see their colleagues as human beings with great potential that is worth being unleashed.
Step Back and Look at the Big Picture
When we get caught up in our job and the tremendous pressures associated with it, it is very easy to lose sight of the “big picture” and fall into unnecessary conflict. The purpose of looking at the big picture is to make observations that allow one to correct and make things better. Why is this so important? It is important because the act of doing this restores perspective. When we lose perspective on why we are doing something and who is there to support us, workplace conflicts can quickly bubble to the surface unnecessarily. Looking at the big picture regularly helps avoid conflicts because everyone’s attention is on the true priorities, rather than the conflict or disagreement at hand.
Speak the Truth, But Do So with Tact
Conflict can easily arise from misunderstanding, so it is important to be direct rather than to hint at, imply, or skirt around the truth. While we often leave out key pieces of information in an attempt to avoid causing discomfort – whether it be our own or someone else’s – this does not lead to the understanding, behavior change, or conflict resolution that we are hoping for. In a respectful workplace, people speak the truth, but do so with tact and kindness. They focus on the message rather than the individual, and check for understanding. When everyone has the skills to speak the truth tactfully, it is a lot easier to communicate clearly and productively.
Every organization has a unique culture, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to changing or transforming it. To create a culture that will set your organization on a path to long-term success and eliminate a persistent, negative conflict problem, you need a solid plan and an experienced, knowledgeable partner on your team.
Many companies realize tremendous value by enlisting the help of a trusted partner who can guide them through the process of developing and implementing a successful culture transformation. A strategic culture-transformation specialist will guide the development, measurement, and retention strategies of any initiative, which enables internal departments to focus on the daily work that keeps the company running. Even companies within the same industry face unique challenges, making it worthwhile to seek out a partner whose proven approach ensures that your strategic goals are met and your corporate uniqueness is accounted for at every step.
Conflict is going to happen at any organization. When employees and leaders are passionate, engaged, and invested in the work they do, even the most well-intentioned people can end up experiencing conflict. The key is to address it respectfully and productively so that the organization benefits. In a culture where employees and leaders respect one another and take actions every day to show it, conflict can easily be overcome.
Through culture transformation that includes training for employees and leaders, coaching for executives, and a variety of other tools and activities, you can create a positive culture of respect. To help you do so successfully, Eagle’s Flight is a trusted culture-transformation specialist for organizations worldwide. Our specialty is helping organizations develop and implement culture-change initiatives that include a thorough culture discovery process, identification of key priorities, in-class or virtual employee training, and the measurement tools and retention programs to support long-term culture change. Using our expertise and proven methods for achieving lasting results, you can successfully transform your organizational culture and find or maintain your competitive advantage in today’s ever-changing marketplace. At Eagle’s Flight, we understand how to change employee behavior in support of lasting culture change. Contact us to learn more about how we can put our 30-year track record of success to work for you.
"Using our expertise and proven methods for achieving lasting results, you can successfully transform your organizational culture and find or maintain your competitive advantage in today’s ever-changing marketplace."