VanAntwerp Attorneys, LLP
Phone: 606-618-0698

The business value of conflict management over avoidance

There are those who argue that relationships between employers and employees today are more like marriages than the cash-for-labor construct that has dominated the labor market since the start of the industrial age. Indeed, some economists suggest that in the past 20 years, employer benefits have emphasized supporting employee emotional needs over wages.

Whether the argument has merit is debatable. However, we think most would agree that one characteristic that complex business organizations and marriages share is conflict. Where humans are, there is disagreement. The question this begs is whether all conflict should be avoided, or whether, with good management, conflict can benefit a business?

At the outset, let us be clear that every case is different and identifying what employment relationship strategies to pursue varies with each case's unique circumstances. It requires outlining what outcome is desired, and understanding the compliance requirements of both federal and state employment law.

Next, it can be helpful to note that experts generally agree that conflict takes different forms. Characteristics of so-called "good conflict" include:

  • Candid discussions, encouraging different points of view, drive innovative solutions.
  • Communications that keep the focus on tasks and steer clear of personal, emotion-laden comments.

Unfortunately, research into work attitudes toward conflict suggests most respondents' first inclination is to ignore the conflict in hopes it will simply disappear on its own. Experts say what usually occurs is that conflicts over business issues escalate into personal disputes. Destructive ill will can then spread through an organization, undermine progress, and result in actions that could spark legal action.

From a business perspective, avoiding litigation is of paramount importance as an objective. Achieving that begins with solid employment policies that anticipate employee protections and provide managers with the knowledge necessary to spot issues before they trigger broader employee disputes. To be sure that all bases are covered, consulting an attorney with demonstrated skill and experience becomes an obvious priority.

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