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Friday, 14 May 2021 13:48

What Cost Workplace Conflict?

You may have been made aware of a report that was published this week that examines the cost of workplace conflict. Commissioned by ACAS, the report specifically tries to highlight the impact that workplace conflict has on businesses by allocating a monetary value to it. It estimates that the total annual cost to UK employers is a staggering £28.5 billion.

Whilst we think that the some of the assumptions drawn by the report to reach that figure are somewhat overzealous at times, it does validate the point that the failure to manage workplace conflict is a source of ongoing financial distress for businesses. It’s a message we’ve pretty much had on repeat since HR Champions has been in existence; along with some solutions of course.

According to the report’s estimate, the number of people who resign from a job as a result of conflict is 485,000 each year. It goes on to suggest that a large bulk of the estimated cost to business is made up of recruiting replacement employees, and more significantly, in the lost productivity whilst those new recruits get up to speed with their work.

The number of employees who take sickness absence as a result of conflict is estimated at 874,000 per year and the lost productivity from this group also contributes significantly to the overall cost to business.
The report also allocates a cost to those who continue to work but who’s productivity suffers from the effects of anxiety, stress and depression as a result of conflict. However, we feel this amount may rely too heavily on self-diagnosis of mental health conditions rather than upon recognised professional judgment.

One of the main points raised by the report to explain the occurrence of conflict is that very often managers and supervisors simply aren’t equipped with the skills to effectively handle a conflict situation. We would probably agree. It’s long been our observation that individuals get promoted into a position of management or supervision because they are good at doing their jobs rather than because they are good at managing people. “Your best salesman will be your worst sales manager” is an adage we frequently use.

Conflict arises for a variety of reasons and we can’t expect to be able to overcome all of the motives behind it. A basic clash of personalities is a typical example. However, we can take steps to manage the occurrences of conflict and also to minimise and mitigate its impact when it does occur.

If conflict arises, individuals must have a channel and/or route where they can discuss issues without any fear of reprisals or fear that the very fact they are reporting something will have a detrimental effect on their position or relationships within the organisation. Early communication is key and the beneficial effects of keeping matters informal cannot be overstated.

As soon as a formal grievance is initiated the chances of reaching an outcome where all parties walk away feeling happy and satisfied are minimal. Either the grievance will be upheld, and the “offender” will suffer some form of consequence which could include dismissal. Or the grievance is not upheld and the person raising the grievance is left feeling disgruntled and aggrieved. They may then decide their position is untenable, resign from the company and in the worst cases apply to an Employment Tribunal for Constructive Dismissal.

Cultivating an environment where employees feel that they can openly discuss issues in order to find resolutions should be an aspiration of all businesses. In addition to the financial benefits of retaining staff, a culture of talking issues through to find resolutions will filter into all aspects of the business; improving working practices, productivity and ultimately profit.

Publicising an “open door” policy is only effective if it is truly lived and breathed throughout the organisation and mangers and leaders are prepared to actively listen to the issues of their employees and take action. Mediating between employees is quite a skill in but making the effort to find common ground will be rewarding on many levels.

Role modelling from the top down is key to creating an environment where staff feel comfortable giving and receiving 360° feedback.

Conflict resolution modules exist in a number of our Leadership and Management courses and if you wanted a stand-alone course for your own team we would be more than happy to provide you with a quote. It would pay for itself many times over. If you find yourself dealing with a grievance, we can help with that too. Either way, call on 01452 331331 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Read 176 times Last modified on Friday, 14 May 2021 13:59

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HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

We deliver excellent management and soft skills training suitable for all organisational levels. We are ILM and City & Guild accredited and Ken Blanchard approved.  

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