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Managers Are Spending 4 Hours a Week Dealing with Conflict

October 31, 2022

By Heather Nezich, courtesy SBAM Approved Partner ASE

A new report by Meyers-Briggs, Conflict at Work, reveals that managers spend an average of four hours each week dealing with employee conflict. The research investigates how people in the workplace see conflict today and what we can do to manage it better.

Conflict is what happens when there is a difference of opinion. Change and disruption bring difference, which helps to explain why managing conflict is so valuable in the workplace right now. Our working environment is constantly changing.

“Currently, managers spend over four hours a week dealing with conflict on average,” says John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company and who carried out the study. “This research sheds light on how people in the workplace see conflict and shows how individuals can use knowledge of their own conflict-handling style and personality type to navigate conflict more effectively.”

The Conflict at Work research includes insights such as:

  • Poor communication is the number one cause of conflict.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 people think their managers handle conflict poorly or very poorly.
  • The more time that an individual spent dealing with conflict at work, the lower their job satisfaction and the less included they felt.

Compared to the company’s 2008 study, workplace conflict is becoming more common. Over a third (36%) of people now report dealing with conflict often, very often, or all the time, compared to 29% previously.

The top cause of conflict was poor communication, though conflict looked different for in-office, hybrid, and remote workers. In-office workers were more likely to say that poor communication caused conflict at work compared to hybrid or fully remote workers; but those working hybrid schedules were more likely to say a lack of transparency caused the most conflict.

In an open-ended question, survey respondents were asked, “Whose responsibility is it to ensure that conflict in the workplace is managed effectively?” 241 individuals responded, and their answers were categorized into themes:

  • Line Supervisor/Manager 45%
  • Everyone 42%
  • Me/People Directly Involved 20%
  • Middle/Senior Management 20%
  • HR 8%
  • Everyone 3%

With only 8% looking to HR to help resolve conflict, it’s important to train all employees on how to properly manage conflict. Conflict is inevitable, and if handled properly, can lead to improved relationships, new processes, and new ideas.

The greatest positive benefits of conflict were seen as building relationships, collaboration, and co-operation.

  • Women were more likely than men to mention outcomes around building relationships, collaboration, and co-operation.
  • Respondents who mentioned outcomes around building relationships, collaboration, and co-operation tended to spend a greater proportion of their time working remotely compared with those who did not.
  • They also gave a higher rating to the importance of conflict handling as a leadership or management skill.
  • Those who mentioned outcomes around achieving a better solution tended to rate their ability to manage conflict more positively.
  • Those who mentioned outcomes around change, innovation, or new ideas were more likely to mention changes in policies, products etc., and a lack of transparency as causes of conflict.
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