What are high conflict work environments?
High conflict work environments are those characterized by persistent, escalating, and often extreme harassment, bullying, and intimidation. This may be caused by one individual or group of employees who repeatedly undermine working relationships usually resulting in a toxic work environment with an ensuing impact on productivity and results. In some cases, these employees even gain satisfaction from this behaviour which reinforces their commitment to creating conflict in the workplace.
Which work environments are more prone to high conflict?
Although any workplace may experience high conflict situations, the risk is generally higher for industries where the nature of the work is intense, competitive, high stakes, or in unionized workplaces. Therefore, high conflict workplaces often impact healthcare, professional services and government workplaces such as:
- Hospitals and Private Care Networks (“PCNs”),
- municipal councils and administration,
- police, fire, and ambulance services.
Managing High Conflict Environments
As with most conflict situations, communication is key and language, tone, and timing matters.
Some communication pointers:
- Choose words carefully and try and use disarming language that will deescalate tension rather than inflame it.
- Know when to when walk-away from a confrontation. If there is no quick resolution available, it may be best to leave the conversation for a different time after a cooling off period.
- Seek out common goals and objectives where interests align. This is an effective mediation strategy which can further disarm the situation, increasing the chance for resolution.
- Elevate the matter to a supervisor or HR and request intervention. In situations where elevating the conflict to management is ineffective, it may be necessary to engage an external professional with high conflict training and experience.
The bottom line is healthcare and governmental organizations do important, often stressful, and high-stakes work. This means high conflict situations are always around the corner and management and HR need to invest in systems which foster just culture and psychological safety for personnel. This will help to minimize the frequency of high conflict situations and give HR and management the tools to effectively manage them when they do arise. This may be difficult to achieve without sufficient training for management and staff or intervention by an impartial workplace mediator in acute conflict scenarios.
At Method, we specialize in workplace solutions for healthcare and municipal government organizations. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information on how we can help your organization investigate or mediate conflict.