Workplace Conflict is a key driver of Workplace Stress
The recently held Australian Psychological Society Conference in Melbourne reported that that mental health problems are costing Australian business $10,000,000,000 every year. What interested us most is that the Conference reported that at least 1/3 of workplace stress claims are due to morale-related injuries that were usually driven by “workplace conflict”. That is, conflict between bosses and co-workers. As stated by clinical and organisational psychologist Peter Cotton “What they need is early access to better conflict resolution”. This means that the most effective manner to reduce the number and risk of stress claims for a business, whether large or small, is to:
- Upskill its people on how the handle workplace conflict, and
- When the conflict arises, to get in expert assistance to transfer lasting skills into the business.
We recently worked with a “team in stress”. It was in a consumer sales industry. The team was riven by conflict and passive aggressive behaviour (see our previous post here). The Team Leader did not have the skills to deal with the conflict, 2 staff had recently resigned and 3 employees were threatening stress claims. Zandy was able to institute a timely intervention based on informal conflict resolution processes. This took the team back from the edge. Now we are both working with them to provide the manager and the team members with the individual skills and confidence to manage their behaviours, rebuild trust and actually to start getting more sales!
Why wait so long for help???
Most businesses wait for a crisis (like our client above) prior to investing in workplace conflict skills. We scream why??? The skills learned are crucial not just in managing conflict but actually building cooperative viable teams that get the job done. Are these so called “soft skills” hard to measure and the ROI difficult to determine? What is the business case for investing in conflict management for your people?
The simple answer is you save time and $ not having to manage conflict, such as stress claims and investigations. Also better conflict skills creates stronger strategic relationships, which result in higher employee satisfaction and better business results. Crucially these skills also result in the reduced complexity and severity of psych injury WorkCover claims. This is now so well recognised most of the WorkCover insurers provide a % of $premium to be spent on initiatives that will reduce the business’ risk profile for claims! Some of our clients are using this to pay us to run our Better Conflict Course internally.
A big picture issue that came up at the conference is that low morale issues, colloquially referred to as ‘stress’, are being medically diagnosed as an actual “adjustment disorder”. Observations were made that the ‘medicalistion’ of what at times may simply be difficult and stressful work situations actually risked worsening a worker’s condition.
We’d love to hear your views on this issue.