Quarreling can ruin a company. Brigitte Santo experienced the problem of conflict escalation herself. Ten years ago, the industrial engineer and her sister took over her father’s business: a mechanical engineering company with almost 200 employees. The succession situation was difficult. “We did not manage to develop a common basis for communication, understanding and the future of the company,” says Santo. The company suffered as a result and had to go into partial bankruptcy.
Santo has left the operational management of the company, has completed training as a coach and mediator and now works as a freelance mediator and coach in a law firm in Munich. Today she says: “With the help of a mediator, we would probably have been able to settle our disputes.” Mediators are specialists in conflict resolution.
15 percent of the working time for arguments
There are conflicts in abundance, because wherever people come together, social tensions arise. According to information from the institute for the training of works councils, quarrels in the workplace bind around 15 percent of daily working hours in Germany. That’s a good hour on an 8-hour day that is unnecessarily wasted. Managers even spend between a third and half of their working time on arguments and their consequences.
Disputes make people sick and are expensive: In companies with up to 100 employees, annual conflict costs of 100,000 to 500,000 euros arise. In larger companies it can be much more. Companies and their employees should therefore ensure that conflicts arise as few as possible and that these are resolved correctly. Mediation is the professional approach to this.
Mediators recommend companies to use their services much earlier. “Usually HR departments or the responsible executives only commission us when it feels like all internal attempts to resolve the conflict have failed,” says Alexandra Bielecke, psychologist, mediator and 1st chairwoman of the Federal Association MEDIATION.
The iceberg model
The number of well-trained mediators is rising steadily because conflicts increase and the awareness of how to resolve them increases. The corona virus is not an immediate cause of conflict, but its consequences. For example, the question of which employees have to come to the office and who can continue to work in the home office can cause feelings of injustice. Such feelings can be the breeding ground for arguments.
Other triggers for this are unclear roles, overlapping responsibilities and controlled information flows. The dynamics of conflicts can be explained with the iceberg model: “The needs of the people take place under the surface of the water. These are invisible to the other person, often also to oneself, but the trigger for the conflict that is visible above the water,” says Santo . Conflicts build up in the subconscious and send out their harbingers with decreasing willingness to perform and increasing error rate.