The number one reason why managers don’t deal with conflict in the workplace – until they absolutely have to

I often come across workplaces where they urgently need help to deal with a workplace conflict because the situation has become untenable. But when I start asking questions about when the issues first started to be a problem, I am sheepishly told, 2 years ago, 10 years ago – and once I was told 30 years ago!

An organisation will side-step around the issues that are causing members of their team a significant amount of grief, lost productivity and sometimes result in staff turnover.

Then suddenly something happens, something big, something that cannot be ignored and then this problem that has been hanging over everyone’s head for years, can no longer be ignored and there is an urgent need to resolve it.

So why do we delay resolving these issues immediately; why do we cause ourselves extended periods of pain? Why do we let an entire team suffer, so we can protect one person who is “high conflict” or “difficult”. Why do we tolerate inappropriate language, behaviour or performance for years on end?

The reason we don’t deal with conflict in the workplace is because we don’t want (or sometimes even know how) to start that difficult conversation. We don’t know where it will go and we don’t want to open a can of worms. We don’t trust ourselves to do it well and we don’t want to appear to be sitting in judgment of other people. So we sit on the issue and hope and pray that the “difficult” person will work it out, read the body language of the other staff, and inherently know that they are the problem and as a result terminate their own employment.

The reality is that many “high conflict” or “difficult” people have little awareness of how their behaviour and actions might be impacting on others and often no-one tells them. They may be living with a mental illness, they may have low self esteem and poor self awareness. They may not be able to read the non-verbal cues or people’s body language.  In my experience these “difficult” people are often horrified when they find out that their behaviour is having an negative impact on a workplace and their level of shame is exacerbated because the problem has gone on for years and no-one told them.

It’s not fair on any of your staff not to deal with conflict when it arises. You can’t hide problems by pretending that they are not there.

At ACM we specialise in dealing with “difficult or high conflict” people. We can help you start that conversation. We can provide a safe space for a difficult conversation. To find out more about how we can help your workplace, call Kate on 0409 554 611.

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