Conflicts at the workplace arise between an employer and employee or between employees regarding their work relationship.
Very few people can proudly claim that their work environment is stress-free. No matter how respectful your boss or co-workers are, minor disagreements occurring every day lead to conflict.
Depending on the issue that led to the conflict, dispute resolution can be a more or less challenging task. The most common causes of workplace conflicts include disagreements over medical leave, vacation, and the use of office space. Furthermore, unauthorized disclosure of confidential information and disrupted co-worker relationships act as a trigger. In more severe cases, employees experience discrimination and harassment from their bosses or co-workers.
Disagreements over vacation or medical leave can occur between an employer and employees and between co-workers. Rejecting an employee’s request for a leave often leads to dissatisfaction and potential conflict with the employer. Similarly, in environments where the work process must be maintained without disruption, leaving for a vacation can burden other employees. That can cause a dispute between co-workers. The same disagreements can occur concerning the use of office space.
Conflicts arising from breaches of confidentiality regularly occur between the employer and employees, often leading to a litigated dispute.
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Harassment and discrimination are the most extreme examples of workplace conflicts.
Harassment is any behavior in the workplace that creates a hostile and intimidating environment. Such behavior can come from employers, supervisors, or co-workers. Sexual harassment is motivated by the worker’s gender, manifesting in inappropriate remarks, touches, and sexual advances. In its most extreme form, sexual harassment consists of explicitly asking for sexual favors from an employee or a co-worker.
Discrimination is present in many workplaces, taking various forms. Treating your employees or co-workers differently based on their skin color, religion, race, or sexual orientation is discriminatory behavior. It creates a hostile environment, often resulting in workplace conflict.
Workplace conflicts disrupt everyday workflow. Regardless of the cause and the participants, disputes at work always slow down the creative and productive process, causing lower profits. Apart from these costs, there are direct expenses of resolving the conflict. Depending on the method, that can vary. For example, litigation is the most expensive because of attorneys and court filing fees. Arbitration is not necessarily cheaper than litigation, while mediation proves to be the best solution in terms of costs. In any case, workplace conflicts represent a heavy burden both on employers and employees.
Workplace Conflict Leads To Stress
While a certain amount of stress is inherent to all work environments, regardless of the field, conflict in the workplace leads to increased levels of stress that are damaging to health. For example, prolonged and intensive stress, typical for a hostile atmosphere at work, is associated with burnout, fatigue, and a weaker immune system. In addition, employees who experience such symptoms tend to use medical leave more than usual, leading to lower productivity and profits.
Conflicts In the Workplace Cause Aggression
As mentioned, harassment and discrimination in the workplace are not rare. Hostile behavior at work often triggers aggressive responses as a self-defense mechanism. While some workers react openly and intensively, expressing their aggression verbally, others tend to suffer silently for long periods. However, once their tension reaches a critical point, they may react with physical aggression by hurting their co-workers or supervisors. There is no need to describe how much these incidents can cost an organization, financially and morally.
Employees Leave Their Job Because Of The Conflicts
A hostile and unfriendly work environment causes many employees to leave their jobs. While some can put up with the pressure, others cannot. However, companies whose employees leave because of work conflicts experience financial difficulties due to a shortage of highly qualified workers. In practice, replacing high-ranking, skilled employees takes time. In turn, that leads to increased costs and losses.
Those Who Stay Are Unmotivated and Unhappy
Unhappy, unmotivated, and underperforming employees stay in companies unable to cope with workplace conflicts. In the workplace where employees experience harassment, discrimination, and disrupted relationships with co-workers, those staying cannot engage in the work process. They are unproductive, inefficient, and unable to meet work demands. Consequently, that causes productivity and performance issues, lack of profit, and losses.
Workplace conflicts are typical for one thing – the relationship between everyone involved is tense and emotionally charged. Resolving these disputes in adversarial litigation does not contribute to reconciliation. On the contrary, the outcome of the court process will always leave one party dissatisfied, causing further disruptions. Similarly, arbitration produces no better results. In litigation and arbitration, a state-appointed judge or panel of arbitrators issues a binding decision resolving the conflict. Conflicting parties can control neither the process nor the outcome.
As an out-of-court method, mediation proves to be the most effective tool for de-escalating workplace hostilities. Equally important, mediation is the most time-effective and least expensive of all resolution methods.
What sets apart mediation from conventional procedures is how it deals with the psychological aspects of workplace disputes. For example, instead of engaging in vindictive litigation, disputed parties sit at the negotiation table in an attempt to settle their conflict. Unlike litigation, which further increases existing hostilities, mediation aims at re-establishing peaceful work relationships.
The mediator, a neutral third person, facilitates the negotiations without imposing decisions or suggesting solutions. As a retired judge or other knowledgable professional, the mediator often provides conflict coaching to the parties by educating them on the unacceptability of harassment, discrimination, and other forms of workplace abuse.
The mediation process consists of an introduction, opening statements, and private and joint sessions. A private session provides a chance to share views on the dispute with the mediator. In joint sessions, the parties discuss the contested issues openly, bringing offers and counteroffers to settle the dispute. The mediator stays neutral throughout the process, trying to reconcile the parties by facilitating negotiations. If successful, mediation brings resolution to the workplace conflict through settlement, as a binding agreement enforceable in court.
From a cost-effectiveness point of view, mediation is an unmatched tool for dealing with workplace conflicts.
The Mediation Group offers a unique approach to workplace conflicts. By working diligently to facilitate negotiations between the disputed parties, our experts will bring much-needed reconciliation to your work environment. As certified Florida mediators, we understand how emotional and stressful workplace disputes can be. We are here to help.
Contact us today to schedule your mediation.