May 02, 2012 / by Alisa Hafen / No Comments

You protect yourself from sharp objects, dangerous equipment, and ice covered roads, but what about the chilled sarcasm of a colleague? What protects you from the costs coming off your bottom line from stressed out employees in conflict?

Studies show that up to 30% of a typical manager’s time is spent dealing with conflict. Multiply the time involved by the number of managers in your organization and the estimated cost per conflict can be an alarming jolt to the bottom-line. The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports that health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress and many studies suggest stress is a byproduct of a conflicted work environment. These costs can rapidly diminish the dividends in an otherwise profitable and accident free year, if you’re not protected.

There’s no insurance policy against it or magic wand that will remove it, but office conflict and its costs can be made to disappear by following three deceivingly simple steps. Each step, derived from the new release Make Difficult People Disappear, serves to raise the emotional intelligence of all team members allowing them to not only stay safe from stress and accidents caused by them, but communicate well and collaborate even better. Here are three ways you can protect yourself from the costs and the conflict.

Raise Awareness
Just as many machines build a product on the factory floor, many personality preferences build an effective team. There are four preferences in total and each person has them all, but one will rise naturally to become dominant and come out more glaringly in times of stress. There are Commanders, motivated by “getting it done” who communicate in bullets and see everything not on their list as an intrusion. There are Organizers seeking to “get it right” who analyze every detail twice before making a decision. There are Relaters gifted in empathy and “getting along” who will work to meet the needs of others and avoid conflict at all costs. There are Entertainers who live for “getting appreciated” and bring light hearted fun to the office with a flair for creativity and a desire for drama. Awareness of these distinct differences and how they behave under stress will reduce the frustratingly infuriating perceptions that natural behaviors are personal or intended to ignite conflict.

Label Differently
When team members are aware and able to utter “Oh, that’s just his negative Commander” they can go on with their work without feeling the need to defend against what may be labeled difficulty.
But, what if the label were nothing more than “different”? Teach team members to not only accept differences in each other, but learn from them.

Encourage Acceptance
Working with others who have a different approach can be fascinating instead of frustrating, but that, too requires a different label and approach. Making difficult people disappear (and their conflict causing difficulty) isn’t magic; it’s a shift in mindset. Teach team members to respond instead of react. Teach them to breathe before they “bow up” and teach them accountability before accusations. Office conflict doesn’t occur when one person is grumpy. It happens when the one who is grumpy is met by one who expects and then insists that he’s not.

With an increase in team work and individual acceptance of the differences of others, your productivity will hum like a well-oiled machine. Continue regularly scheduled maintenance, log the improvements, and implement fresh skills, not only in search of a stellar safety record, but soaring profits and a conflict free environment.

For more ways to protect you and your bottom line please read the book “Make Difficult People Disappear” written my Monica Wofford.