managing conflict

Managing Conflict in the Workplace

Managing Conflict in the Workplace

In this article, Senior HR Consultant, Louise Angell discusses the cost of conflict in the workplace and offers advice for employers that are managing workplace conflict.

According to research by advisory group ReWAGE, more than one in three workers experience conflict at work. This comes at a cost of £28.5 billion per year in the UK.

In addition, a further £589 million is lost due to a drop in productivity due to conflict in the workplace. Around 9% of employees take time off work due to stress, anxiety and depression linked to conflict, leading to an overall loss of 15 million days per year.

So, what are you doing about it in your workplace?

Is your HR team equipped to manage conflict in your workplace?

HR professionals will need to have the skills to encourage managers to resolve issues through informal discussions.  This will be done by guiding and coaching managers through difficult discussions, building their confidence when dealing with these situations and helping to address issues that can be difficult and sensitive.

The cost of conflict can be very high, especially if an employee chooses to resign as a result. Research has shown that the largest cost of conflict relates to the ending of an employment relationship. The cost of recruitment, induction training and lost productivity amounts to over £30,000 per employee in the lead-up to and when someone leaves. This means that your HR practitioner needs to refocus on repairing and restoring employment relationships wherever possible.

Sources of conflict in the workplace

Sources of conflict include:

  • Poor attendance and timekeeping
  • Excessive use of the Internet or email
  • Drink and drug problems
  • Taking credit for other people’s work or ideas
  • Not valuing other people’s views, backgrounds or experiences
  • Talking over or interrupting people

Any type of conflict can be equally destructive and likely to be a build-up of tension over time if not addressed.

Managing Conflict in the workplace

1. Build strong working relationships with your team.

  • Get to know them and understand what matters to them.
  • Find out how they prefer to work and if they feel part of a team.

Understanding your team will help you pre-empt conflict and build stronger relationships. This will enable your team to feel comfortable when approaching you with personal problems that are affecting them.

2. Be mindful of low-level tensions.

  • Managers should address any inappropriate behaviour straight away to send a positive message to their team that they will not tolerate poor behaviour.
  • Hold regular one-to-one meetings with your team to build strong relationships. This will enable them to share their frustrations with you and give you the opportunity to prevent them from escalating.

Different people exhibit their tensions in different ways. Some will react immediately whereas some will allow their ill feeling to fester over time which will fuel any frustrations they have. Getting to know your team will allow you to see a change in behaviour and identify problems before they arise. 

3. Address instances where one individual is causing stress in the team.

  • Immediately address your concerns with the individual, they may not be aware of how they are acting and or the impact it has on others.
  • Be clear that their behaviour is not acceptable, define what is acceptable and advise that if it continues to cause a problem, a more formal process will be followed.

Because you will have done the groundwork to create an open team culture you should be able to address the source of conflict comfortably.

4. Set clear expectations around team behaviour.

Set out examples of desired behaviours, for example:

  • Being respectful of others’ views, experiences and working styles.
  • Challenge behaviour which is unacceptable and against expected behaviour.
  • Ensure fair treatment of colleagues and avoid favouritism.
  • Maintain professionalism and promote workplace inclusivity.

Hold team sessions and workshops to engage staff better and help them agree to and identify desired and constructive behaviours.

5. Avoid office gossip.

  • Sometimes conflict can be born out of office politics. It’s very important for managers to avoid engaging in such conversations and challenge individuals who are involved in spreading unfounded rumours.

A little bit of hard work and dedication to your team culture can make such a difference. Your team will work better together in all aspects of the job. Plus, you will avoid the cost of conflicting management and associated costs.

To find out more information or if you require any advice about managing workplace conflict get in contact with our team of experts.

T: 0330 107 1037


Twitter: @HPC_HRServices

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