This post is an excerpt from an article that was published in the Summer 2019 issue of the The Independent® magazine

Many people believe that the funeral business work environment is something like the classic TV show The Brady Bunch. A mixed family that all got along and worked together in perfect harmony. Instead the reality is much more like the current show Modern Family— lots of sniping, gossiping, and taking sides with one group or another.

How prevalent is conflict in the workplace? A CPP Global Human Capital Report suggested that more time and money is wasted on employee conflict than we think. Here are a few statistics:

  • 85% of employees deal with conflict on some level
  • 49% of conflict is a result of personality clashes and “warring egos”
  • 25% of employees have seen conflict result in absence from work

Still not convinced conflict is an issue? The same report concludes that employees spend 2.1 hours a week dealing with conflicts. This equates to one day a month which, on average, is over $2,100 per year a funeral director is wasting to mediate conflict. Thus, a funeral service owner/manager needs to be committed to establishing a work environment that promotes healthy discussion and sets the foundation for effective conflict resolution. Consider the following:

Open communication
Encourage employees to discuss conflict without fear of retaliation. Employees who feel their opinion matters are more likely to resolve conflicts from the start before they effect the entire team. Not every employee will be good communicators. Programs like Toastmasters and Rotary Club are good resources for employees to establish better communication skills outside of work. Other opportunities like seminars, workshops, and other educational events provide somewhere for employees to practice communication skills regularly rather than waiting for conflict to arise.

Work-life balance
Create an environment of support in which employees feel that they are a valued member of a team. Employees who feel valued are more likely to verbalize external stressors before they start to impact work completion and job satisfaction.

Training and development
Promote an environment for employee development. An employee should be able to learn from stressful situations in a way that benefits their overall work ethic. The funeral industry is constantly changing. An environment conducive to learning new skills as well as adapting outdated practices is an environment that will promote positive attitudes among employees.

Quality work
Recognize employees who are doing quality work. Positive reinforcement does exist! Recognition of a job well done will likely result in the same or even greater levels of commitment from that employee in the future. Providing positive feedback can translate to positive opinions towards the work environment.

Team entity
Build an environment that focuses on teamwork. Create a sense of unity in which everyone feels they are contributing something to the overall team dynamic. Remind employees that they are all working towards a common goal. Differences do not have to be a negative thing. Utilizing the strengths of everyone can lead to an even more positive result than simply assigning tasks at random.

Creating a work environment that focuses on a team rather than an individual will encourage open communication and an active effort by everyone to reduce conflict. Employees in a team environment will focus their efforts on promoting a positive image of the funeral business.


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Stephanie Ramsey is the HR Specialist for OGR Supply Partner, The Foresight Companies, LLC. She has a unique perspective on the challenges funeral and cemetery business owners and managers face when dealing with employee issues. She has written many employee handbooks and other job-specific documents for clients nationwide. Stephanie writes a quarterly newsletter on HR matters that can be viewed at www.f4sight.com. She can be reached at Stephanie@f4sight.com.