In the current volatile market, many companies are facing the mayhem of restructuring and downsizing in order to survive. In such uncertain times, companies too often lose sight of the fact that their success is inevitably dependent upon their employees.

The cost of replacing one employee can be up to forty percent of the annual pay for that position, and “businesses spend £277,000 in time and fees on a typical employment dispute,” [CEDR Research, 4 Dec 2006]. Ultimately, employees who feel valued are more content and motivated, and thus more productive, slowing or even reversing some of the threatening attrition.

It is crucial now more than ever for companies to view and treat their employees as valuable commodities.

The following are methods managers can use to reduce the adverse impact of conflict in the workplace.

• Encourage effective communication
• Establish methods of productive team work
• Provide a flexible working environment
• Engage staff in organizational and structural change
• Recognize and respond to employee achievement

Encourage effective communication
Effective communication is vital to making sure employees feel valued. Managers should communicate reciprocally and respectfully with employees. This will set a tone that may stifle conflict before it begins or escalates.

Address conflict when it arises. Employees will feel valued if their concerns are heard in a timely manner, and will be more willing to come to management first to discuss any future problems. Otherwise, they may grow resentful and feel even more undervalued. The sooner issues are addressed, the sooner they can be resolved and both employer and employee can return to focusing on their work.

Have difficult conversations. Being non-confrontational only creates more conflict. Employees may feel insulted and unimportant if managers are reluctant to address controversial issues. “Generation Y” is permeating the workplace, and these employees demand mutual respect. Thus, collaboratively solving workplace issues shows employees across generations that their company has the desire and ability to maintain a harmonious relationship.

Keep your employees informed. Often, management fails to inform their employees of the practical impact of executive decisions. This can lead to conflict if employees are not aware of the reasoning behind the changes to which they are expected to adjust.

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The Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) is an independent, non-profit organisation with a mission to cut the cost of conflict and create choice and capability in dispute prevention and resolution. www.cedr.com