Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Handling conflict at work, what’s your EQ?

U.S. companies spend more than 2.8 hours each week dealing with workplace conflict, adding up to approximately $359 billion in 2008, according to a recent study by CPP Inc. (brought to our attention by HR Web Café).

More important than lost time and money, workplace conflict is putting employees’ safety at risk. About one third of employees (33%) said conflict at work has led to personal injury or attacks, and another 22% reported that it has led to illness or absence from work.

"These figures should be a wake-up call to industry leaders," said Jeff Hayes, CEO of CPP Inc. "Companies are losing billions of dollars because of poorly managed conflict, and we expect that figure to grow in a down economy as stress and workload -- two of the biggest causes of conflict -- rise."

While managers may think they know how to manage conflict, employees don’t agree. The survey revealed that just under one-third (31%) of managers felt that they’re skilled at handling conflict, while only 22% of employees said their managers deal with conflict well.

Positive conflict resolution and specialized training go hand in hand, according to researchers. The study found that employers with more incidents of conflict training had more positive outcomes, while organizations with less training opportunities reported lower numbers of positive outcomes.

"This research clearly shows the astounding amount of workplace debate, disagreement, and negotiation that take place in business," said Josh Bersin, president and CEO of Bersin & Associates, an analyst firm in enterprise learning and talent management. "If high performing business and human resource leaders are to turn conflict into positive business change, they must take the time to coach and train their employees to effectively deal with differences of opinion, style, and points of view."

Along with training, emotional intelligence (EQ) also makes a large contribution to your success in conflict management. Emotional intelligence is the ability to create positive outcomes in relationships with others and within ourselves through awareness, understanding and appropriate emotional expression, according to George Anderson, CEO of Anderson & Anderson, at Anger on my Mind.

“Understanding the powerful role of emotions in the workplace sets the best leaders apart from the rest not just in tangibles such as better results and the retention of talent, but also in the all-important intangibles, such as higher morale, motivation, and commitment.”

Emotional intelligence is a skill we develop and enhance throughout our lives, and plays an important role in every relationship we form. Having a high EQ will help you gain the trust and support from employees to help you lead effectively, especially when times are tough.

As businesses suffer and tensions are high, a focus on emotional intelligence may be exactly what we all need right now. Managers and employees with the skills to adapt and handle emotional situations are some of the most valuable assets a business may have.

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