Conflict in the Workplace by the Numbers

This is the first article in my Secrets of Conflict Resolution blog series.  The series is based on my presentation of the same name that I presented at Nebraska.Code().

The agenda for this series is:

  1. Conflict in the Workplace by the Number
  2. Conflict Resolution: Setting the Stage
  3. Approaches to Conflict Resolution: Collaborating
  4. Approaches to Conflict Resolution: Compromising
  5. Approaches to Conflict Resolution: Smoothing
  6. Approaches to Conflict Resolution: Forcing
  7. Approaches to Conflict Resolution: Withdrawal
  8. Understanding Group Dynamics
  9. Managing Conflict: 10 Tips to make you a Conflict Resolution Superstar

Conflict in the Workplace by the Numbers

I’m a numbers guy. Saying something needs to be done or something is a problem is hard to quantify without numbers to back you up. So let’s look at some key numbers surrounding the topic of conflict in the workplace.

It is pretty rare to work in an organization where there is no conflict or strife. Surveys show us that 85% of U.S. employees have experience conflict and spend 2.8 hours per week dealing with it. This causes significant loss of organizational productivity ending up costing companies $359 billion a year in lost productivity.

Think about that for a second. Every year, companies lose $359 billion in productivity because employees have a hard time getting along. That represents 2% of the United States’ gross domestic product and would rank 31st in the International Monetary Fund’s list of counties by GDP. That is also more money than the bottom 70 countries produced in 2015.
Along with those numbers, 27% of employees witnessed personal attacks and 25% say avoiding conflict resulted in sickness and/or absences.

That is good evidence that we need to address conflict within the workplace. Interesting, 31% of managers think they handle conflict effectively while 78% of employees do not think their managers handle conflict effectively.

The silver lining in all of is that 95% of those who receive training say it is the biggest driver for success. That means that there are ways to improve the solution, we just need to get people trained. And there is the rub as nearly 60% have never received training.

One last number to share: I have shown that conflict costs companies lost productivity and there are associated costs with that conflict. But conflict is is also a necessary evil and 75% of employees report positive outcomes from conflict that would have NOT been realized without the conflict. Just think about it, have you have ever had a disagreement about what technology or implementation to use for a solution? Has that disagreement ever gotten a bit bitter and/or heated? Well that is conflict and it probably resulted in the group coming up with the right technology or implementation to use for that solution. So while we need to control conflict, some conflict is not only natural but needed.

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