The Nature of Conflict
Conflict is a normal part of life in personal relationships, neighbourhoods, communities, organisations and businesses. Conflict is part of the human condition; it happens every day.
In organisations and businesses examples of conflict include:
Staff disagree amongst themselves about job boundaries, work priorities and responsibilities - some work doesn't get done, mistakes occur and supervisors have to intervene;
- Staff disagree with their supervisors and managers about hours of work, approval to take leave, allocation of work and resources, and fair treatment – they become de-motivated and distressed;
- Work groups argue about work priorities and responsibilities, and the allocation of work – they lose focus and become disruptive;
- Unions disagree with management over employment conditions, OHS standards, and employee rights – they lodge claims and register disputes;
- Executives and board members disagree on strategies, execution timelines and resource allocation – disagreements become time consuming and disruptive;
- Customers argue with staff about service standards and product quality - they lodge complaints and take their issues to tribunals;
- Suppliers dispute product and service specifications, prices and delivery schedules – they threaten legal action and with-hold services;
- Business partners argue about the distribution of profits and the allocation of non-cash benefits – they lose focus, impetus and trust in each other;
- Business unit managers argue about the use and application of resources and scarce capital – they fail to collaborate and waste precious time and energy.
The existence of conflict is in itself not a bad thing if it is managed constructively, and in many cases it is. The conflict which is not managed constructively however damages relationships and has a significant cost impact on the organisation or business.
In those cases where it is not managed well, a specialist in dispute resolution can often help. The timely application of ADR can reduce conflict and help preserve, and even improve, relationships between disaffected staff, managers, executives, customers, suppliers, business partners and unions.
Additionally, ADR processes are almost always less costly and less time consuming than litigation. Surveys in the UK and USA highlight that the cost of conflict to organisations can amount to a third of total employment costs (direct and indirect costs). The cost of conflict is seen as having a “bottom line” consequence on a business’ profitability.