The cost of workplace conflict in a tight labour market

What do labour market statistics have to do with workplace conflict? In August 2019, CBC reported BC’s unemployment rate was the lowest in the country. The lowest unemployment rates for Canadian cities are in Vancouver and Victoria.

Conflict left unaddressed causes more than discontent. When workplace conflict boils over, employees become unfocussed, stressed and even ill. When the day’s work becomes an ordeal in navigating choppy waters, employees aren’t productive, often calling in sick and using spare time to look for another job.

For managers dealing with disharmony on their teams, the temptation may be great to allocate blame, dismiss “the problem employee” without cause and find someone who is a better fit.

What are the costs of turnover in a tight labour market? Whether employees leave on their own or are walked out the door, in BC they are likely to find another post quickly. But what will happen in your workplace? The underlying issues that led to the person’s departure won’t have been dealt with. With unemployment rates. It will take a while to fill the vacant position. Your first and second choice candidates may get snapped up by other employers before you can make an offer. Or you may make an offer an interested candidate only to find out their present employer offered a raise and perks they could not refuse.

In the meantime, your other employees have been shouldering the weight of extra duties for weeks or months and become stressed, ill and unproductive too.  And just when your new employee is finally settled into the workplace, another employee announces their resignation because they find your workplace too stressful.

Leaders in workplaces of all sizes need tools to identify and address conflict on their teams. Ignoring conflict and hoping it goes away can lead to a revolving door of costly employee turnover that can be tough to recover from. Start by recognizing that if you operate in BC, which has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, investing in effective conflict resolution training and facilitation or mediation in your workplace may be a necessity. Future blog posts will dig further into different ways of addressing workplace conflict.

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