Every employer strives to create and nurture a healthy environment that encourages employees to work at their best. However, the mix of different personalities, clashing egos and dysfunctional relationships often result in acrimonious disagreements. While healthy differences of opinions can result in exchange of ideas and innovation, persistent conflict can detract from productivity and employee wellbeing. Daily conflicts and disagreements are usually minor and people get past those very easily. Similarly, stressful situations like looming deadlines may cause temporary conflicts which lose steam as everyone calms down in the aftermath of the event.

According to a 2016 report on the Australian workplace by Dr. Lindsay McMillan, nearly half of Australian workers they have experienced serious conflict in the workplace. Nearly a quarter of those affected by conflicts that inconsistent implementation of company policies and poor communication were the underlying causes.

However, turf wars and serious conflicts must be resolved by managers or employers to promote harmony and boost employee morale. Some people react to certain pressure or trigger points and display strong emotions and behaviours. Constant conflict affects work performance and impacts other team members including those not directly involved in the conflict. Other common causes of workplace conflict include poor communication (when verbal, written or subtle communication cues are misinterpreted), gossip and unhealthy competitiveness. Ongoing workplace conflict leads to physical as well as mental repercussions and may include sleeplessness, lack of appetite, headaches and nausea. It often leads to increased employee absenteeism and in extreme cases, increased employee turnover. For example, there could be one or two workers who are responsible for causing increasing discord among team members.

Regardless of the cause, bitter workplace conflicts can derail trust, disrupt work and impact business image. Conflict results in physical and emotional drain and fatigue for participants as the row interferes with execution of responsibilities. They are likely to waste valuable time brooding, sulking or plotting. Similarly, non-participants may be inclined to gossip, take sides or think about the possible fallouts of the conflict. The overall result is decreased productivity, wastage of time and resources and depleted employee morale. In fact, internal conflict can seep into other departments and impact public perception thus detracting from customer experience. Potential clients may hesitate to do business with a company where employees always to be at loggerheads. Warring employees may provide contradictory information to clients resulting in confusion and loss of revenue.

Serious conflicts may lead to shifting of employees to other departments, dismissal (which means you may have to spend more time and resources hiring new people) or even lawsuits. It’s a good idea to prevent conflicts from getting out of hand and to nip them in the bud before they cause irreversible harm to your business. In the worst cases, ugly scandals may arise as a result of internal disagreement. Hence, it’s extremely important to intervene in cases of ongoing conflict before the negative effects start making themselves felt. As the manager or employer, you may wish to consider talking to the employees involved in the conflict. Understanding the situation will help you contain the fallouts and stem the damage in time.

However, not all managers may have adequate time to resolve conflict and bring it to a successful conclusion. At other times, employees may not open up about the problem or other team members may not be willing to divulge the true facts of the matter. In such cases, it’s important to seek professional assistance to get to the root of the matter, resolve the issues and move on from there.

At ESN, we appreciate your time and understand how important it is to resolve internal conflict and improve communication. It’s our objective to help improve harmony and promote wellbeing among your employees. Our experienced team of consultants are happy to offer mediation services, talk to your employees and resolve the situation in the best manner possible. We would like to suggest that our timely intervention can help prevent fallouts from getting of hand and attracting negative publicity in the process. Please feel free to contact us with your queries and doubts.