As the world starts to return to normal and organisations are starting to implement a return to the office, workplace conflict is on the rise. What are the issues for your people and how can these be positively addressed?
Conflict is defined as a clash of interests. Examples of conflict in the workplace include:
Other issues that can also be defined as conflict include:
Conflict can occur due to many differing factors. Some of these include:
There are various reasons that there may be a rise in conflict upon returning to the workplace. Where conflicts may have risen at the start of the pandemic, due to increased levels of stress and poorer levels of communication, levels of conflict are on the rise again. This change of working environment brings along a whole new plethora of mixed emotions as the ‘new’ normal starts to shift back to the way things were before the COVID-19 pandemic.
For some, this return to the office is a welcome one and something that a lot of people have been longing for. However, for others, it is an event that they have been dreading as the home working set-up has suited them better as well as their productivity.
Reasons for this rise in conflict could include:
|Attitudinal Changes||Some employees may be feeling disengaged and have a negative attitude about their role due to the sometimes isolating nature of working from home long term.|
|Interpersonal Changes||As employees begin to catch up with colleagues, those interpersonal conflicts that were there before the pandemic may be rekindled upon a return to the workplace as well as new interpersonal conflicts that may have arisen during remote working.|
|Poor Communication Skills||From an extended period of remote working and lack of social interaction.|
|Lack of understanding||Perhaps colleagues who previously worked together closely have become distant, or managers have not been able to provide the same regular communication that was once received.|
The first step in solving conflict within the workplace is to deal with it informally. This can be done through the following steps:
Line managers have the biggest influence on an employee’s attitude and experience within their role through how they (or in some cases, how they don’t) embed positive behaviours, environment and culture for their team.
The manager should strive to ensure that they are:
They can achieve this through:
Employees will have received a copy of your organisation's values and vision as well as copies of the employee handbook or policies on conduct and capability at work. This allows an employee to be aware of the expectations of how they conduct themselves in the workplace and their own personal accountability in supporting a positive working environment. HR provides a pivotal role to positively support employers and employees in the deployment of policies and processes through ensuring they are consistently embedded throughout the organisation to maintain positive relationships within the workplace.
Conflict is a very expensive issue for an organisation to have. The Estimating the costs of workplace conflict report from Professor Richard Saundry and Professor Peter Urwin details just how true this statement is. On average it costs an organisation £31,103.46 when a conflict is unseen, an employee does not raise the issue and they leave the organisation. When a conflict issue is raised by an employee, but poorly handled by their manager, it costs the organisation on average £8,775.32 due to a formal grievance and the employee potentially taking time off work due to stress, anxiety and depression.
When an individual raises a conflict issue with their manager, this issue is mediated and it comes to a successful resolution, the total cost on average is £1917.96.
This is why it is crucial to ensure you have a fair, robust and effective process in place with all individuals trained in how to manage conflict to ensure that resolution is sought at the earliest opportunity to the benefit of all involved.
|HR Issue||Neither Informal or resolution |
nor formal procedure
|Informal Resolution||Disciplinary/Grievance Procedure|
|Discussion - HR||-||27%||35%|
|Discussion - Union||-||13%||26%|
|Disciplinary / Grievance procedure||-||-||100%|
|Average cost per person||£2,324||£1,941||£6,405|
One of the best ways of ensuring that your organisation can effectively manage conflict resolution is through the training and enabling of managers to have the right skills and confidence to meet their particular role requirements.
Our training programmes have been designed to focus on the development areas of people management and leadership. In our experience, we often find that managers are ‘born’ into roles often with little or no support to upskill and become capable people managers and/or progress into people leaders. Running a trial-and-error way for managers to learn is a risky strategy for any business and is also an inefficient way for businesses to operate, as such a strategy is time and resource-draining and becomes a costly exercise. Our programmes increase knowledge, understanding and experience of people management at all supervisory, management and leadership levels and develop a culture of learning and development for personal growth.
We have created a people management and a people leadership programme that complement each other and have been accredited through The Institute of Leadership and Management (TILM) to develop the skills for managing self and others, built on a platform of personal resilience (and mechanisms such as handling positive and negative feedback, managing conflict to reach resolution).