How to manage conflict in the workplace

We spend a large proportion of our lives at work and with our co-workers so fostering good working relationships is important to our health and wellbeing as well as happiness. We’re all human so not seeing eye to eye with all members of staff is normal but when does the difference of opinion become a conflict?

It’s important to have a wide variety of employees from all different backgrounds and levels of experience, this helps to create a cultured and balanced environment. Often what may seem like a conflict could be a misunderstanding or healthy competition between team members in order for them to reach their goals.

For more on how to manage workplace conflict, please read on.

How to identify conflict in the workplace

Conflict amongst employees can appear in a variety of different ways such as poor timekeeping or attendance through to a full-blown argument or physical bullying.

Here is some examples:

1. Any form of bullying or harassment
2. Poor behaviour
3. Poor attendance and timekeeping
4. Drink or drug problems
5. Taking credit for other people’s work or ideas
6. Not valuing other people’s views, background, or experiences
7. Talking over people in meetings
8. Failing to include people in round-robin emails

How to prevent conflict in the workplace

If you continue to ignore conflict in the workplace then it will inevitably get worse leading to issues such as high staff turnover. Being proactive and positive in resolving the issue will help you improve your team’s morale, retain valuable skills and talent, and reduce sickness absence. Here are a few key steps to take:

1. Foster good working relationships with your team members so you understand each employee as an individual.
2. Monitor your team’s relationships and know about any potential tension right away. This can be spoken about in their one to one.
3. Be proactive in stopping a team member when they are being negative or causing stress to another team member.
4. Outline your expectation of the team from the start. This can be highlighted in their handbook.
5. Do not get involved in office gossip or politics as this can be construed as bullying or harassment.

For more on preventing conflict in the workplace, please head over to the manager’s guide to dealing with workplace conflict over on CIPD’s website.

How to resolve conflict in the workplace

There are a variety of ways to resolve workplace conflict, the first always being through performance management.

Performance management should always be positive, supportive and the starting point to building a good working relationship with your employees. This will help to prevent any workplace conflict before it even begins. Managing employees’ performance is a continuous process, making sure that the performance of employees contributes to the goals of their teams and the business.

The next option should always be to aim to resolve conflict informally. This helps to prevent any absences and nip any gripes in the bud. Here are some steps to take to help resolve conflict informally:

1. Intervene as quickly as possible and deal with the issue head on.
2. Make your employees feel comfortable by speaking to them individually first.
3. Encourage problem solving by bringing both parties together to communicate.
4. Understand and sympathise with the targeted employee and help them by removing them from a potentially harmful situation.
5. Always try to form a solution to the problem. A great way of getting ideas for this is to talk to your team and see how they would like you to handle the issue next time. This can be done within employees one to one sessions.

Finally, your last resort should be a formal procedure. This should only be used if absolutely necessary.

If after all of your efforts you need to carry out a formal conflict procedure and are in need of help with this. Please get in touch with our team of professionals where we can advise you on your individual case.

What are the cost implications of conflict in the workplace?

Acas have recently published new data which estimates that workplace conflict costs UK employers £28.5 billion every year, an average of just over £1,000 for every employee. This has been based on informal, formal, sick leave and resignation costs as well as much more.

The knock on effects of workplace conflict are huge causing employees stress and anxiety often pushing them to leave a job they’re perfect for. It’s important to have all managers trained in how to deal with workplace conflict to ensure that the cost implications can be kept to a minimum and employees can feel safe and supported at their place of work.

To read more on the cost implication of conflict in the workplace, please head over to the ACAS report here.

If you need any help or advice surrounding workplace conflict or support on carrying out a formal conflict procedure, our team of HR advisers can help – Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.