Originally published in Ivey Business Journal—May/June 2022
Grappling with seemingly unreasonable people in the workplace is a costly global problem. As part of a six-year study we conducted on organizational effectiveness, Vantage Partners surveyed more than 750 people at 500 companies worldwide. According to our findings, the majority of today’s employees (84 per cent in our research) must regularly deal with what they consider unreasonable counterparts when trying to do their jobs (with 55 per cent saying this happens sometimes and 28 per cent calling it a frequent problem). When faced with conflicting opinions, one in four of our study participants reported that people within their organizations predominantly relied on manipulation or coercion to get their way.
In addition to increasing turnover, toxic work relationships reduce employee productivity and engagement by increasing employee dissatisfaction, stress, anxiety, and depression. And the collective price of work-related conflicts is staggering. This article for Ivey Business Journal aims to help organizations turn employee conflicts into a positive force, which requires effectively navigating a challenging workplace terrain by creating a culture in which colleagues strive to see others with the same degree of empathy as they see themselves.
Abraham Lincoln famously said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” That’s an attitude that any organization seeking to navigate uncertainty and constant change should strive to cultivate, fostering an environment where different perspectives serve as a catalyst for curiosity, rather than a trigger for conflict. When companies understand this and proactively work to resolve workplace conflict through joint problem-solving, they are 3.9 times more likely to report that personal differences fuel learning and innovation rather than conflict.