Workforce is a place where ideas from various unique individuals are gathered and contested. No wonder, it becomes a place where arguments are more likely to occur. Fortunately, disagreement can be so critical that it leads to creative solutions and progress. Unfortunately, disagreement might also lead to chronic arguments that affect business bottom line.
A research on Workplace Conflict showed that on average, employees spent approximately 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict. This amounts to $359 billion in paid hours which is based on average hourly earnings of $17.59, or equivalent to 385 million working days. This could be harmful to the business, given that unproductive arguments could result in damage morale and can undermine motivation, productivity, goals and results.
According to 27 percent of the research respondents, conflict can morph into a personal attack, leading to physical injury or emotional trauma. But avoiding conflict could result worse, with 25 percent of respondents saying that the avoidance of conflict results in sickness or absence from work and also lead to project failure.
Then, how do we manage workplace arguments to avoid team crisis?
Giving training as a part of leadership development or on formal external courses can help decrease conflict or arguments in the workplace, the research suggested. It is said that training is the best solution for high-quality outcomes from conflict. Nearly all respondents in the research agreed that development training helped them in some way. It made them comfortable and confident in managing disputes and look for win-win outcomes from an argument or conflict. Moreover, there are other viable strategies you can apply. Here are some ways that we think are the most effective.
Disagreements appear when there is ambiguity. So, this applies not only to leaders but the whole team to check for clarity and consistency when arguments are likely to rise. For leaders, it will be more helpful if you help individuals in the team by sharing your thinking and rationale at every opportunity and even, sometimes, your feelings. By doing this, you might lessen the chance of conflict by letting teams know how a decision was made and seeing that it applies to everyone else too.
“Don’t expect cross-functional relationship to flourish unless there is a clear steer from the top that is expected, and provide a strong model of being a good internal partner.” – CPP Inc., Workplace Conflict and How Business Can Harness It to Thrive 2008
“10 percent of conflicts are due to a difference in opinion while 90 percent are due to wrong voice.”
No matter how chronic the arguments is, never ever lose your temper or talk in a higher tone. It won’t solve but worsen the situation instead. The moment you raise your voice, you will lose all credibility in front of colleagues. So, albeit individuals are losing control when they feel anxious or angry, we should not forget how to respond and act appropriately to avoid physical or emotional fights.
You can try, instead, to explain your feelings and understand the other party’s feelings. You might want to spell out your personal needs from the situation and the emotional impact it has on you. For example, what damage will likely to occur to you and organisation if the project is stopped? Use “I” statements and don’t attribute blame to another party. This way, you can raise the quality of the dialogue to a level of honesty which might calm down the arguments.
Oftentimes, when it comes to arguing, one person feels the need to ‘win’, which then drives away solutions and invites more conflicts. Deepak Malhotra described the term as “competitive arousal” which means when we see our adversaries not just as opponents but as enemies, we often lose sight of our real objectives – a new objective emerges in order to beat the other side, whatever the cost.
So instead of focusing on the weakness of your rival, you should try to harness and recall strengths you’ve noted in them in the past. It can be hard to do as our temper might not allow us doing so, therefore, you can bring a third party to help see the situation more objectively.
Argument is not always about talking back to your opponents or forcing them to change their minds. It is more about listening and keeping your mind open while maintaining your patience. If you keep an open mind, you will likely find common ground with your workmate which will diffuse arguments. The key is by listening to their message then generate a conclusion by asking yourself questions such as what is their burden? Why are they disagreeing your opinion? Or what the cause of this argument really is, was it because of the fact or personal intention?
“Solutions only come when one person is brave enough to take time to listen instead of talking back during an argument.”