How Much Does Conflict Really Cost?
Consider this example. You have two employees whom you are paying $32,000 each per year. Over the past four weeks they have been engaged in a disagreement about who sterilizes more instruments. On the conservative side, they each spend about two hours a week of their time gossiping, recruiting people to one side or the other, planning defenses and navigating the drama. You think this is an insignificant matter and leave it to them to work it out. What started out as a petty issue has gone ‘viral’ and the entire office is now involved. Worse, this petty argument has impacted patient care (i.e. complaints), employee absenteeism, and potential turnover. Not to mention the risk of grievances and litigation. Might be amusing if it’s on a sitcom, but not when it’s happening in your business.
This simple conflict could cost the practice thousands of dollars. Staggering! Dental offices are filled with people who have differences of wants, needs, and expectations. So, of course conflicts will occur. The trouble isn't necessarily the fact that conflict exists. It's how you deal with those conflicts or what happens when they aren't resolved. The impact of unresolved conflict in the workplace can be devastating - to the parties involved, to colleagues and the team, to patients, and to the practice as a whole.
The Consulting Psychologist Press - publishers of the Myers-Briggs and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument - commissioned a study on workplace conflict. They found that in 2008, U.S. employees spent 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflict. This amounts to approximately $359 billion in paid hours (based on average hourly earnings of $17.95), or the equivalent of 385 million working days. And that’s not all.
The study found that 25% of employees said that avoiding conflict led to sickness or absence from work. Equally alarming, nearly 10% reported that workplace conflict led to project failure and more than one-third said that conflict resulted in someone leaving the company, either through firing or quitting. Those negatives translate into real financial losses, especially for small businesses.
If an employee uses five sick days a year to avoid conflict, that's a direct cost of over $700 to your practice (calculated using the above hourly earnings), not to mention the cost of covering the employee's missed work (e.g., overtime pay for another worker or hiring a temporary employee). Multiply that by 10 employees and you can immediately see the kind of money drain conflict creates.
Unresolved conflict represents the largest reducible cost in many businesses, yet it remains largely unrecognized. Tension and stress diminish motivation and disrupt concentration. If you’re a ‘wait-and-see’ dental leader, take heed and adjust your belief about conflict.
Whenever people work together, conflict is an inevitable result. Disagreements occur in even the best working relationships. But how you address conflict will either add to or take away from your bottom line. When conflicts are handled well, there’s a positive effect on work relationships. When they are not, these factors can deteriorate.
Keep the attitude that holding different views is both normal and healthy to a group. Use patience, persistence and good people skills. Model open communication and feedback. Encourage your employees to acknowledge, deal with, and appreciate their disagreements. Dealing with conflict up front leads to team cohesion and conscious cooperation among your employees, and increased productivity and profitability for you.
Need to resolve conflict in your office? Contact Dr. Haller at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at email@example.com
Interested in having Dr. Haller speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
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