I consider myself to be an intelligent individual. But I cannot figure out, notwithstanding my current intelligence quotient and regardless of how hard I try, why business leaders tolerate and allow interpersonal conflict to thrive in their workplace environments. Uncontrolled, unmanaged and therefore, runaway conflict is so destructive, that the intention should be to prevent its existence, rather than to moderate its demise.
Conflict can span a continuum from gentle tension to violent confrontation. A simple disagreement or differing viewpoints on a matter between individuals, can cause tension and result in conflict. In the absence of resolution, this disagreement can escalate to aggressive verbal exchanges that may turn all the way up to confrontational or violent physical exchanges.
Intradepartmental conflict is one of the most challenging forms of conflict, because it sabotages team working.
Now, let me say that not all conflict is destructive. Some conflicts yield huge benefits when viewed through the lens of “teachable moments.” A difference of opinion, whilst it generates some level of tension, can offer up an opportunity to the parties involved, to alter their lens and to view a situation from a new angle that can bear fruit in the form of more productive decisions and a more productive use of energy.
There are four dimensions of conflict that generate discord. Intrapersonal, interpersonal, intradepartmental and inter-departmental conflict.
Intrapersonal or internal conflict within an individual, occurs when he or she is conflicted about how to respond to a stimulus in his or her life and can place that individual in an unsettled state.
Inter-departmental conflict is possibly one of the most destructive forms of conflict, because it creates strictures that disrupt the customer’s journey.
Interpersonal conflict is the kind that’s found when two or more individuals have a disagreement and experience tension. If these two individuals happen to hold positions that require them to work together, there’s going to be a problem if the conflict persists. Worse, if these individuals need to collaborate to solve problems that impact service delivery, there’s an even bigger problem.
Intradepartmental conflict is one of the most challenging forms of conflict, because it sabotages team working. When team members in a department cannot interact harmoniously, the team and its mission are compromised, with an adverse ripple effect on expected productivity levels.
Inter-departmental conflict is possibly one of the most destructive forms of conflict, because it creates strictures that disrupt the customer’s journey. Collateral damage that falls out of this conflict, includes endangerment of customer communication, disruption of the customer’s transaction and ultimately, a decline in commercial growth.
When ignored, persistent conflict robs a business of its creative force, escalates passive and overt mental health crises, constrains service recovery and sabotages customer trust in the business as a brand.
Conflict, when repressed, can explode at the most inappropriate times, or worse, in the most destructive ways. When ignored, persistent conflict robs a business of its creative force, escalates passive and overt mental health crises, constrains service recovery and sabotages customer trust in the business as a brand.
Rampant, unresolved conflict can become so institutionalized, that the business develops institutional blindness to the deleterious effects of the conflict. The danger associated with this state, is that conflict becomes culturally accepted as a “norm,” with no strategy being actioned to eliminate its existence.
Rampant, unresolved conflict can become so institutionalized, that the business develops institutional blindness to the deleterious effects of the conflict.
The existence of persistent conflict signals an imbalance at individual, team or organizational level. It is a signal that some form of breakthrough is required to restore consonance to how individuals, teams and departments interact.
Getting to a new level of consonance will require leaders to understand the connection between persistent conflict and the trail of disaffection and disruption that it causes across internal and external stakeholder communities. Particularly useful would be the interrogation of how conflict at governance (decision-making) and customer impact (revenue-generating) levels, if left unchecked, can bring a business to ruin.
Unresolved conflicts contaminate service delivery channels, communication pathways and the service recovery process.
Next, elevating conflict to the point of acknowledging it as a universal enemy, changes its psychological contract with the business. This will transmit the signal that “destructive conflict will not be tolerated,” and pave the way to usher in immersive remedial and preventative actions that will propagate healthy interactions.
Of course, the biggest loser is the customer, when inter-departmental conflicts alter the course of his or her experience. Unresolved conflicts contaminate service delivery channels, communication pathways and the service recovery process. The result? Protracted delays in solution delivery, process delays because of haggling between two or more departments over which is responsible for signing-off on a service issue or actioning of a service recovery solution and of course, customer fatigue.
There’s danger ahead when a business adopts a benign resignation towards accepting conflict as a necessary evil, or an inconvenient fact of life in the workplace.
Mercifully, there is a starting point for businesses that are intent on striving to avoid this pitfall.
They begin by acknowledging that conflict does not resolve itself.