Poor communication + high emotion = expensive workplace conflict?

ARTICLES > INSIGHTS > Poor communication + high emotion = expensive workplace conflict?
By Andy Phillpot
January 16, 2020

Good communication is an important factor in client relationships, profitability and effectiveness, but it is also at the heart of mitigating employee conflict. Conversely, poor communication has a significant impact on the scale of any dispute.

If you reflect back upon conflicts you have encountered over the years, you’ll quickly recognize many of them resulted from a lack of information, poor information, no information, or misinformation.

Clear, concise, accurate, and timely communication of information will help to ease both the number and severity of conflicts.

Emotional Intelligence: it’s important to understand our emotions, control our reactions, and recognise how our emotions affect our actions and those of others. When we manage our emotions, we’re better able to handle the changes and challenges that employing people bring.

We are constantly moving from one emotional state to another. Some emotions present an extra challenge when we encounter them at work. What are some of these emotions?

Frustration: especially those that are chronic, need to be dealt with early, or the feeling can spiral into anger, a much more difficult emotion to control.

Worry or insecurity: the feeling of loss of control that change often triggers, can make employees nervous or insecure at work and can affect self-confidence. Good communication helps employees to cope and is a positive way to take some control in times of uncertainty.

Anger: slamming doors and yelling come quickly to mind as examples of anger, but it’s important to remember that anger takes many forms and that most of them are not physical.

Examples of anger at work:

• being excessively critical of others
• being abrupt and dismissive
• being cynical and sarcastic
• “sabotaging” other people’s work indirectly; for example, by being consistently late to meetings, responding late to messages or not sharing information.

Anger sometimes is a symptom of fear, insecurity, and even depression. Unmanaged anger has obvious costs in productivity, team relationships, and physical and emotional well-being. It is often a signal that something serious is wrong and this needs to be addressed.

Feeling down: Everyone feels “low” or has a bad day now and then. Feeling down can be a response to a setback, for example: not being recognised for an achievement at work or feeling overloaded. Some people feel down after they’ve finished an important or especially exciting project and return to more ordinary tasks. Others feel low because of circumstances in their personal lives.

Dislike: We work with many different types of people who have a wide variety of personalities. All of us, from time to time, find ourselves working closely with someone we do not like from a personal point of view. All of us need to find ways to work effectively and productively with people we dislike, without letting our emotions affect our actions.

By seeking out areas of potential conflict and proactively intervening in a reasonable and decisive fashion you will likely prevent certain conflicts from ever arising. If a conflict does flair up, you will likely minimize its severity by dealing with it quickly. Time spent identifying and understanding natural tensions will help to avoid unnecessary conflict.

Give appropriate feedback to clear the air, preferably soon after the event and in private. Be matter of fact and focus on what was said or done and how it made you feel. It is important to focus on the individuals’ behaviour without attacking the person.

Resolution can normally be found with conflicts where there is a sincere desire to do so. Turning the other cheek, compromise, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, finding common ground, being an active listener, and numerous other approaches will allow you to be successful in building rapport if the underlying desire is strong enough. However, when all else fails and a dispute cannot be resolved do not ignore it.

Further reading…

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