Recently I read an article that talked about the importance of resolving disputes in the work environment. (The article is found in Douglas Magazine, “Why Mediation Should be Part of Your Business’s Tool Kit.) The article talks about how undealt with conflict can negatively impact a business or organization. I have seen many organizations suffer over the years when conflicts are left to build momentum. As one of my clients said recently about a conflict, “it was like a tornado. It started small, gained strength and then unleashed its power all over us.”
Why are conflicts left to gain power? In the above mentioned article, Kari Boyle, Executive Director of Mediate BC, is quoted as saying that “only 13 percent of managers in a recent Canadian survey felt they were effective in dealing with these conflicts.” My experience tells me this is true. Many managers do not feel equipped to deal with the conflict, so they avoid it, hoping it will somehow resolve itself. It rarely does.
Many organizations don’t encourage up front, face to face conflict resolution. Things are left until someone puts in a complaint or grievance and then things turn adversarial quickly, making it difficult to return to a more cooperative discussion.
The organizations and businesses that have policies and expectations that conflict will be dealt with and actively encourage it, tend to fare better. I encourage organizations to train managers and supervisors so that they feel more comfortable addressing a conflict. I also suggest to businesses that calling in a neutral third party facilitator, like myself, can assist with managing the conflict. It is better to call in someone, than to leave it until it is too late and the damage is irreversible.