Discord to Harmony: Making Your Workplace Hum
Presented by: LaVena Wilkin, PhD
One thing is certain. Conflict, like death and taxes, is inevitable. Conflict happens. And the workplace is a breeding ground for conflict. First, consider that organizational culture consists of such things as shared values, beliefs, assumptions, perceptions, and norms. Add to that the fact that organizations are complex coalitions of individuals, departments, and divisions—each competing for scarce resources, such as funding, access to those in power, and time.
Stir in a little power imbalance and organizational political posturing. Then, add the fact that today’s managers are faced with diversity and cultural issues ranging from race and gender —with more women and minorities entering the workplace—to individual heritage, values, and beliefs, which we are more vocal about. Shake all that together and you have a workplace that is bubbling over with conflicted people and situations. Although conflict is a natural, normal occurrence with individuals, groups, or institutions interact, it can become overwhelming.
Conflicts invariably arise between individuals in organizations, between organizational components, or between institutions. Additionally, research indicates that 30-40% of a manager's daily activities are devoted to dealing with some form of interpersonal conflict. Although it has become an intricate component of a manager's job duties, many managers are ill-equipped to deal with conflict in the workplace. As a result, the negative impact of either real or perceived unfair treatment, emotional abuse, discrimination, sexual harassment, anger, hostility, or potential violence leads to discord and results in fractured relationships, loss of productivity, and even lawsuits. Learning to fine tune the conflicts will help managers orchestrate a more harmonious workplace.