Workplace conflict is an issue that no business or organisation can afford to ignore. Every business will come into contact with workplace conflict at some point, however the employer being able to spot the signs and being prepared for it, is the best defence.
At Kingfisher Professional Services, we understand the importance of effectively managing workplace conflicts. In this blog, we will delve into the world of workplace conflict, exploring what it looks like and how employers can manage it. We’ll also highlight that acting early and preventing workplace culture is often the best plan of action and provide you with formal procedures to resolve workplace conflicts.
What Does Workplace Conflict Look Like?
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. Every business with go through periods of workplace conflict, however, the best businesses can resolve issues or prevent workplace conflict from manifesting at all. Furthermore, while the majority see it as a negative thing, some workplace conflict is actually a sign of a healthy and very normal working environment.
Workplace conflict can come in its most obvious forms such as low-intensity deviant acts, any form of bullying behaviour or harassment, any form of discriminatory behaviour, poor employee performance, poor attendance or time-keeping, unacceptable language and more serious forms of conflict including theft and drink or drug problems.
However, workplace conflict can come from less obvious sources. This could comprise of uncivil behaviour, such as not replying to an email, differences in personality style or working style and someone taking credit for other people’s work or ideas. Furthermore, workplace conflict includes employees not valuing other people’s views, backgrounds or experiences, talking over people in meetings, being discourteous and even having poor personal hygiene.
Recognising the signs and symptoms of Workplace Conflict is essential. Here are some common indicators:
- Decreased Employee Motivation: When conflicts brew, employees may become less motivated, affecting their productivity and engagement.
- Mental health issues: A hostile work environment can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression among employees.
- High Sickness Absence: Workplace conflict often results in higher rates of sick leave, impacting the overall productivity of the organisation.
- Resignations and Turnover: Employees may choose to resign due to ongoing conflict, leading to recruitment costs and lost productivity.
- Formal Grievances and Disciplinary Cases: An increase in formal grievances and disciplinary cases is a clear sign of unresolved conflicts.
- Legal Issues and Litigation: Workplace conflict can escalate to legal matters, incurring substantial costs in terms of management time and legal fees.
How to Manage Workplace Conflict
Effectively managing workplace conflict is crucial for maintaining a healthy work environment. One fundamental step in achieving this is by upskilling managers who play a pivotal role in conflict resolution. To equip them for this task, it’s essential to provide training that covers areas such as people skills, effective communication, and conflict resolution techniques. Additionally, empowering managers to confidently address day-to-day employment issues promptly is key. Creating an atmosphere of effective communication among employees and managers is equally vital to prevent conflicts from festering.
Another aspect of managing workplace conflict is the necessity to act early. Timely intervention can prevent conflicts from escalating into more significant issues. This involves proactively identifying concerns related to employee conduct, performance, or any issues raised by employees. Addressing these conflicts promptly is vital to prevent them from worsening and becoming more challenging to resolve.
Furthermore, conflict resolution sometimes requires repairing relationships and improving workplace practices. This means addressing grievances promptly when they arise and taking steps to remedy the situation. Regularly reviewing workplace policies to identify areas for improvement is another crucial element. By doing so, organisations can adapt and implement changes in policies and practices to minimise the likelihood of conflicts arising in the first place. These measures can significantly contribute to maintaining a harmonious work environment and preventing workplace conflicts.
The Cost of Workplace Conflict
The estimated cost of workplace conflict to UK organisations is £28.5 billion a year – the equivalent of more than £1,000 for every employee. These findings are part of a recent ACAS report, which sheds light on the significant impact of workplace conflict on UK organisations.
Here are some critical findings from the report:
- In 2018-2019, approximately 9.7 million employees experienced workplace conflict.
- 40% of employees who experienced conflict reported reduced motivation, while 56% reported stress, anxiety, or depression.
- Workplace conflict-related “presenteeism” can cost between £590 million and £2.3 billion annually.
- Sickness absence due to workplace conflict costs UK employers approximately £2.2 billion each year.
- Around 485,800 employees resign annually due to workplace conflict, resulting in recruitment costs of £2.6 billion and lost output costs of £12.2 billion.
- An average of 374,960 formal grievances and 1.7 million formal disciplinary cases occur each year, incurring significant management time and costs.
- The total cost of management time spent on litigation and legal fees is estimated at £282 million and £264 million per year, respectively.
How to Resolve Workplace Conflict
Resolving workplace conflicts is a critical skill for maintaining a harmonious and productive work environment. When conflicts inevitably arise, addressing them promptly and effectively becomes paramount. Here’s a guide on how to navigate and resolve workplace conflict:
Step 1: Identify the Conflict
Identifying a conflict is the first step in the resolution process. This involves recognising the presence of a conflict and understanding the parties involved. It’s essential not only to pinpoint the surface-level issues but also to delve deeper into the underlying causes of the conflict.
Step 2: Gather Information
Once a conflict is identified, collecting relevant information is essential. This information includes gathering facts, statements, and evidence related to the conflict. Thorough documentation ensures that all aspects of the dispute are considered, helping in the development of a well-informed resolution strategy.
Step 3: Encourage Communication
Effective communication lies at the heart of resolving workplace conflicts. Facilitating a constructive conversation between the conflicting parties is essential. During this dialogue, it’s important to create a safe and non-confrontational space for employees to express their perspectives and concerns openly.
Step 4: Mediation
In some cases, conflicts may be too complex or emotionally charged to resolve through direct communication alone. This is where mediation, involving a neutral third party, can be invaluable. A skilled mediator can guide the conversation, helping the conflicting parties find common ground and reach mutually acceptable solutions.
Step 5: Create a Resolution Plan
Following productive discussions and mediation, it’s time to develop a comprehensive resolution plan. This plan should outline the specific actions and strategies needed to address the conflict effectively. Depending on the nature of the dispute, it may involve behavioural changes, adjustments to policies or procedures, or other interventions. The plan should have clear, achievable goals and a timeline for implementation.
Step 6: Monitor Progress
Once the resolution plan is put into action, it’s crucial to monitor its progress closely. Regularly check in with the parties involved to assess how well the plan is working. If necessary, make adjustments to the plan based on feedback and changing circumstances.
Step 7: Evaluate Outcomes
To conclude the conflict resolution process, evaluate the outcomes carefully. Assess the success of the resolution plan and whether it has effectively addressed the conflict’s root causes. Gathering feedback from the involved parties can provide valuable insights into the process’s efficacy. If the conflict persists or new issues arise, be prepared to revisit the earlier steps and make necessary adjustments to achieve a lasting resolution.
Incorporating these steps into your conflict resolution process can significantly enhance your organisation’s ability to manage and resolve workplace conflicts professionally and effectively, fostering a more productive and harmonious work environment.
Workplace conflict is a costly issue that can affect employee well-being and organisational productivity. As professionals in the field, we emphasise the importance of recognising, managing, and preventing workplace conflict. By upskilling managers, acting early, and being open to improvements, organisations can create a more pleasant working environment that benefits everyone involved.
If you require assistance with workplace conflict or any other employment matters, do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd; we are here to help you navigate these challenges with expertise and professionalism.
Would like to speak with a member of our expert team at Kingfisher? Please give us a call at 0333 996 0666.
What are the costs associated with workplace conflict?
Workplace conflict can lead to decreased motivation, increased stress, sickness absence, resignations, recruitment costs, and legal fees, costing UK organisations billions annually.
How can managers effectively manage workplace conflict?
Managers should receive training in people skills and conflict resolution, act promptly when conflicts arise, and encourage open communication.
Why is prevention so important when it comes to workplace conflict?
Preventing workplace conflict through clear policies, training, open communication, and conflict resolution procedures is cost-effective and helps maintain a healthy work environment.
What steps should be taken to resolve workplace conflict?
Conflict resolution involves identifying the conflict, gathering information, facilitating communication, mediation (if necessary), creating a resolution plan, monitoring progress, and evaluating outcomes.