Unresolved Workplace Conflict Costs $$!
Published in Santa Monica Business Journal in October 1996
By Lee Jay Berman

Once upon a time, there was a business that had disputes and there was tension between the employees. No, really! Managers complained about workers attitudes, workers complained about managers, even customer service people and sales representatives got crabby. The lunch-room was abuzz with backstabbing gossip. Customers and clients were being lost left and right. If this sounds familiar, it's time we had a little talk.

No business is entirely without disputes, but the difference between efficient, productive, successful businesses and those not making it can be in how they manage conflict.

Think about what you and your company go through to gather customers. You put out enormous effort to reach hundreds or thousands of people. When one becomes a customer or client, that is not the time to risk losing them because one of your staff does not know how to manage the first conflict that arises.

Whenever people gather there is the possibility of conflict. When they gather to create income and money changes hands, there is a probability of conflict. Today, we have more mergers and consolidations than ever before in history. People are having to adjust-- some to the idea of unemployment. Add to that the cultural diversity in the workplace and our general unfamiliarity with how to relate to each other as human beings and it's a wonder that any of us can ever complete a business transaction!

The other prevalent symptom of the "conflict in the workplace" disease is the astronomical increase in employment lawsuits. Between wrongful termination, discrimination and sexual harassment, employers and management are afraid to make a move and the courts are filling with litigation.

One thing a company can to avert these types of problems is to train employees of all levels to successfully manage workplace conflict. We offer a very popular workshop that covers practical techniques to efficiently resolve disputes before they escalate into violent or legal issues.

Such an interactive workshop provides skill-building exercises specifically designed for a diversified workplace. We use role-play to give participants concrete and useful techniques to resolve conflicts. Employees will learn how to recognize conflict, identify conflict behavior patterns and manage conflict by creating lasting, win-win solutions. These workshops are also effective in diffusing angry people, whether customers or employees.

In today's work environment, it is also important to learn the unique ways in which people from different cultures communicate--a compliment in one culture can be offensive in another. These differences also extend to communication expectations from one gender to the other. Participants will learn to recognize potential hot-buttons and leave with specific communication skills which will help them to avert such conflict as well as discrimination and sexual harassment claims by building an environment of trust and respect.

Bill Gates says in his book The Road Ahead, "More than ever, an education that emphasizes general problem solving skills will be important. In a changing world, education is the best preparation for being able to adapt". Your team will see measurable differences in the way employees treat each other and customers after this kind of workshop. Whether you take it from us or from another trainer, do not let your business suffer the effects of unresolved conflict.


Lee Jay Berman is a full-time mediator and trainer based in southern California. He is a Distinguished Fellow with the International Academy of Mediators and a Diplomat with the California and National Academies of Distinguished Neutrals. He is the founder and President of the American Institute of Mediation, offering world class training for the complete mediator. He can be reached at (310) 593-9905 or leejay@mediationtools.com.

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