Size Doesn’t Matter: Small Organizations Need Help Too

“We just don’t have the budget.”

Small organizations are often reluctant to bring in outside help because the cost of an intervention can represent a significant part of their budget. Yet the cost of workplace strife can be disproportionately higher for small organizations than for larger ones.

The cost of workplace strife, in both time wasted and money lost, is likely to be high for any organization. If your organization is big enough that conflict is causing you stress, then it is big enough to bring in outside help.

Here are some reasons why conflict in a smaller organization can be particularly stressful:

1. When relationships are strained in a small group, everyone knows about it and everyone is effected. Even those who don’t want to take sides may find it difficult not to be pulled in.

2. Relationships are more concentrated in small organizations. The smaller the group, the more intensely the conflict is likely to be felt. In a family of ten children, if two don’t get along the others can provide a buffer and help defuse tension. If two out of three siblings don’t get along, the third is likely to be caught in the middle.

3. In larger organizations there are many more options for moving people around and making it possible for individuals to avoid one another. People can be shuffled, re-assigned and transferred. But in a smaller organization, you can’t simply send someone to the Calgary office. Similarly, allowing certain employees to work from home may not be an option. So it is all the more important that everyone be able to work together effectively and respectfully.

4. If an employee leaves a small organization, he or she may take with them specific knowledge and skills that are not easily replaced. Other things, like institutional memory and long-standing relationships with suppliers and partners outside the organization, might simply be irreplaceable.

Both small and large organizations can benefit from workplace mediation. Don’t forget that a large organization is made of smaller units. While a mediator might work with an organization as a whole, say to advise on policy or help develop a code of conduct, we are also brought in to work with smaller units, and even with single individuals.

The good news is that while the cost of an intervention might be proportionally higher for a small organization than for a larger organization, the benefits are also likely to be disproportionately higher.

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