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Industry Voices: Is hidden conflict killing your productivity and profitability?

0 86 Labour

by Janice Quigg

Construction is an important industry in Canada. The sector includes a wide variety of fascinating projects and players. The construction industry also has its share of challenges.
Industry Voices: Is hidden conflict killing your productivity and profitability?

In part three of this five-part leadership series, I want to explore the "E" in my leadership model: LEAD (Leading with your heart; Excelling at conflict resolution; Adding value by serving others; Developing trust), which is excelling at conflict resolution.

As a construction litigator, I know that litigation is often a cost of doing business these days.  In fact, many large construction companies include legal fees as a line item in their budget for large commercial projects.

However, a hidden cost of projects is the unresolved conflict that can occur regularly on the job site.

Research indicates that workplace conflict is a huge productivity killer, resulting in significant financial losses to businesses. Construction managers can spend a great deal of their time dealing with employee conflict. In an industry where there is significant pressure to deliver projects on time and budget, developing the skills to deal with conflict efficiently on the job site is critical.

If left unresolved, conflict can result in health and safety issues, wasted time, compromised quality of work, loss of talented employees, decreased motivation, less productivity, increased absenteeism which all result in a loss of revenue for construction companies.

According to Thomas and Kilmann, there are five primary methods of resolving conflict: (a) competing; (b) compromising; (c) accommodating; (d) collaborating; and (e) avoiding.

To become skilled at resolving conflict, one must learn when it is appropriate to use each of these methods of conflict resolution. Let's look at each method briefly.

(a) Competing

Competing is where you attempt to satisfy your interests at the expense of the other person's interests. This method of conflict resolution involves a win-lose solution.  An example of this is where a supervisor imposes his or her decision upon an employee: "Sorry John, that's my decision, and it's final."

(b) Compromising

Compromising is where both you and the other person have your interests only partially satisfied. Compromising is also considered a win-lose solution. An example is where an employee may agree to take turns doing menial daily tasks such as site clean-up.

(c) Accommodating

Accommodating is where you attempt to satisfy the other person's interests at the expense of your own. Accommodating is again seen as a win-lose solution. This method of conflict resolution is where one employee defers to the other because he or she believes that it's the best resolution. An example might be where two employees discuss an issue and one is persuaded by the other that their solution is the most appropriate to get the job done.

(d) Collaborating

Collaborating is where you and the other party find a win-win solution that satisfies both of your interests. Collaborating is where combining the insights of various employees can result in a highly creative solution.

For example, when there is a delay on the project, collaborating may allow employees to come up with an innovative solution to maintain the project schedule.

(e) Avoiding

Avoiding is where both people avoid the conflict without satisfying either person's interest. An example of conflict avoidance is when you postpone a discussion because it may be too dangerous or complicated to deal with on the job site.

Given the pressures imposed upon those working in the construction industry, conflict is inevitable.

While there is much overt conflict in the construction industry, there is also the much-hidden conflict that can be even more insidious to your company culture because it never gets resolved.

Because conflict is one of the largest reducible productivity costs in the workplace, it makes good business sense not only to learn how to resolve the conflict but to harness it as a strategic advantage for your organization.

Most people rely on one method of conflict resolution.

Some avoid dealing with conflict whenever they can. Others bend over backwards to accommodate the other person.

Many construction leaders are unaware of the five primary methods of conflict resolution and the circumstances in which each particular mode is most effective. However, construction companies that invest in learning how to minimize conflict will not only increase productivity and profitability but will also enrich the lives of their people.

Janice Quigg has extensive experience as a lawyer, coach, speaker and author and is a Canfield Certified Trainer who specializes in not only constructively resolving conflict but also teaches how to embrace it and use it to serve an organization's goals. For more information visit www.janicequigg.com. Send comments to editor@journalofcommerce.com.

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