Is workplace conflict really that much of an issue?

Is workplace conflict really that much of an issue?

In short, yes, it can be. Not only can workplace conflict cost employers an extortionate amount of money each year, whether that’s through employees taking sick leave, or the cost of commencing formal procedures or litigation, but it also has a negative impact on productivity and employee wellbeing.

The cost of workplace conflict

In a report published by Acas, it was estimated that workplace conflict costs UK employers £28.5 billion per year; which equates to an average of over £1,000 per employee!

The Report found that almost 10 million employees had experienced some form of workplace conflict, with half of these citing stress, anxiety and depression as a result. Almost 1 million employees took time off work due to the conflict, at an estimated cost of £2.2 billion to employers. Another half a million employees decided to resign from their roles, and with an estimated cost per year of £14.9 billion, recruiting for replacement employees isn’t a cheap option for many employers.

How can we resolve conflict?

Many conflicts start with a small difference of opinion or personality clash, which if left unresolved can fester into a much larger problem.

Employers should try and identify any areas of concern and upon becoming aware of a potential conflict, regardless of how small it may initially appear, try and informally resolve it by involving managers. Employers should be careful to ensure that they are not ‘blaming’ one party or being seen to take sides.

If an informal resolution is looking unlikely, then mediation could be considered.

What do we do if it can’t be resolved?

If tensions have increased, it might become necessary to protect employees by removing them from certain situations and temporarily separating them to prevent escalation. Caution should be taken with this approach as it must be a fair and necessary response and consultation with the employee will be required.

As a last resort, formal procedures may need to be commenced to resolve the situation. This can be in the form of an employee submitting a grievance or the employer commencing the disciplinary process.

Can we dismiss for reasons relating to conflict?

Yes, employers can dismiss employees for conflicts and/or fallings out, under the grounds of Some Other Substantial Reason, however this decision should not be taken lightly. The Employment Tribunal would expect employers to have exhausted all other options to resolve the conflict, for example looking at redeployment, mediation and changing working patterns.

If you require assistance with dealing with workplace conflict, then please call the team on 01752 663295.

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