Conflict happens. It’s part of everyday life.
Whether between friends, foes, neighbours, family members, or complete strangers, conflict can arise. Learning to deal with it well is a valuable skill to have.
The workplace can sometimes provide respite from conflict. It can also be the source of it. With different personalities working together in one organisation, and a large proportion of our waking hours spent at work, a degree of conflict in the workplace is inevitable.
As HR professionals, this is something we know all too well.
Similarly, Acas (The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) has been front and centre for many heated workplace situations over the years. It is well positioned to comment on the scope of workplace conflict in the UK, and has calculated the pre-pandemic cost to organisations being a staggering £28.5 billion.
If you’re wondering what that looks like day-to-day, it equates to £1000 per employee. Yikes!
How did the cost of conflict come to be so high?
It’s a combination of costs that can be triggered by conflict; conflict which has usually been left to fester.
This includes organisational costs such as employee absences, presenteeism or resignation. Plus the time spent trying to resolve an issue. Plus the costs of formal procedures like disciplinary processes or litigation.
Not all conflict is going to contribute to such expense. In fact, some conflict can be beneficial to help your people and your business grow. Think a high-energy creative meeting or puzzling team-building session.
An experienced manager will be able to spot the difference between good conflict and the kind that needs an intervention – usually an early one at that.
Dips in productivity and/or increased absences are key identifiers of a potentially troublesome situation, as both can be the result of stress and poor well-being. When these sorts of behaviours start to arise, a one-on-one conversation with an employee can provide the subtle first steps towards an intervention.
Many instances of workplace conflict can be resolved at this point, saving time, money, and morale. For the times when next steps require further investigation, don’t forget that we are here to help.