Stepping into a leadership role is a challenge in and of itself, but inheriting a toxic culture can make it even more difficult. Toxic cultures can arise when former leaders allow harmful behaviors to persist, or when people on the team feel they deserve the new leader’s job. In these situations, the new leader must work to address workplace conflicts and improve the team’s culture. But where do you start?
The first step is to acknowledge the prevalence and impact of workplace conflicts. According to a study by CPP Global, employees in the US spend an average of 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflicts, which equates to approximately $359 billion in paid hours annually. Furthermore, 65% of employees have experienced a workplace conflict at some point in their careers, and conflicts can lead to negative outcomes such as workplace injuries, property damage, sickness or absence from work, and even project failure.
To address these conflicts, leaders can use conflict resolution techniques such as identifying the root cause of the conflict, encouraging active listening, establishing clear communication channels, facilitating discussions, encouraging problem-solving, and following up. These techniques can help team members understand each other’s perspectives, find common ground, prevent misunderstandings, and develop practical solutions to address the root cause of the conflict. However, sometimes, these techniques may not be enough.
This is where bringing in outside help, such as a consultant or mediator, can be beneficial. These outside experts can provide an objective perspective, expertise, neutrality, confidentiality, efficiency, and training to support the leader and team members in working through conflicts and developing practical solutions. For instance, consultants or mediators can help build trust and facilitate open communication between team members, maintain confidentiality throughout the conflict resolution process, accelerate the process of addressing toxic culture, and provide training and development opportunities for the leader and team members.
Addressing workplace conflicts and toxic cultures requires a combination of strategies. Leaders must first acknowledge the prevalence and impact of workplace conflicts and then use conflict resolution techniques to develop practical solutions. Additionally, bringing in outside help can be beneficial for accelerating the process and providing expertise and training. Taking these steps helps move conflict partners towards a positive and healthy work environment.