Conflict can stimulate changes and progress, but unresolved conflicts can disrupt how a team functions. Increased workloads, changes in operations, staffing cuts and personality differences can create stress. Whatever the cause, mediation can improve communication, decrease tension and improve the team’s ability to work together.
The costs of employee discord can be enormous. Recent research by various corporations and government agencies shows that:
- An average manager spends 24 percent to 60 percent of his or her time dealing with employee conflict.
- Conflict is a major factor in employee turnover, but in today’s economy, many people are afraid to leave their jobs, so they just endure the stresses of conflict as well as they can.
- The effects of conflict include wasted time, reduced decision quality, lowered motivation, increased health costs and inconvenient rearrangement of work groups to separate disputants.
The Good News:
Government agencies and businesses that use mediation show dramatic results. With lower conflict, employees have fewer sick days and unscheduled absences, and show improvements in their morale and productivity. The U.S. Postal Service’s REDRESS mediation program successfully resolved 76.7 percent of the 2,277 cases received during the first quarter of 2014.
Example of a Workplace Mediation Case:
Average pay for Jefferson County employees is $53,212, or about $26.11 per hour. If two $26/hour employees spend 10 minutes a day bickering (1/6 of $26 x 2 = $8.67 x 5 days per week, x 50 weeks per year), it consumes $2,167 per year of their pay. Then each spends 10 minutes talking to the manager – another $2,167. Their manager earns $30/hour and spends 20 minutes per day listening to complaints (1/6 of $30 x 2 = $10) – another $2,500 per year. The two also spend 10 minutes talking to co-workers about each other (1/6 of $26 x 4 = $17.33), and it costs another $4,333 per year for the four workers. Conflicts can go on for years, and this one unresolved conflict will cost $11,167 per year, not including the effect on the department and its service quality. There are about 55 departments and divisions in the County, so just one conflict in each unit will cost the County more than $614,185 each year. Disputes between employees and supervisors cost even more: leadership may be challenged or passively resisted, and the team’s work will suffer.