Unresolved Conflict Will Damage Your Business.

At a conservative estimate, I would say that the regional economy is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars per annum through the effects of conflict that is undiagnosed and unresolved.
Conflict is normal in any grouping of people. Especially creative and ambitious people such as those who develop and run successful companies.

When handled well, conflict can be productive, liberating fresh energy and clarity to drive an organisation forward.

When conflict is not resolved, severe problems can occur which hurt the bottom line and may ultimately affect the long term viability of the organisation.

In my experience there are three levels of conflict. We shall discuss each of these in more detail in subsequent issues. For now here is a brief overview

  1. Open conflict is about a clear and specific topic: Green widgets vs red widgets
  2. Buried conflict is about a specific topic – but has reached the stage where people are not talking about it anymore.
  3. Hidden conflict is by far the most dangerous and hardest to spot and deal with. It is also the most common. There is no clear issue any more. Unresolved conflict has become buried in the 'unconscious mind' of the organisation and can persist for many years, long after the original people have left. The hidden issues set up patterns of behaviour within the group, which appear random and unrelated, but are not.
Symptoms of Unresolved Conflict

The single biggest indicator of unresolved and hidden conflict is that normal business strategies don't create a lasting 'fix' for the problems you are facing.

Other symptoms can be

  • Drop off in new clients/customers
  • Failure to retain existing clients/customers
  • Loss of sales and income
  • High staff turnover
  • Low staff morale and productivity
  • Missed deadlines
  • Frequent conflict, especially over issues that seem totally out of proportion to the amount of anger generated
  • A troublesome team, or one position always seems to attract a troublesome person
  • Frequent illness and/or accidents – of staff and/or their families
  • Initial success, followed by a mysterious decline in profitability for reasons that are not clear
  • An invisible threshold of business/financial success that can't be got past (check over a 5 – 10 year period)
  • Ongoing financial difficulties, business failures and bankruptcy, especially when these are repeated over time
What happens if you do nothing?

Things will stagnate – or get worse. Any degree of unresolved conflict causes problems and the longer it is left the more severe these become.

Conflict needs active intervention to bring resolution. It doesn't get better by itself and expands over time. More people will become involved and more aspects of the business suffer.

Continuing to trade with unresolved conflict is like continuing to work with a chronic infection. You may get away with it for a while but over time your health is severely compromised and more serious issues will develop.

Next month we shall look in more detail at Open Conflict, how to handle it and what warning signs to watch out for.


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