Acas has recently published a new report with an estimate of the costs incurred by UK businesses due to workplace conflict. The amount stretches to almost £30 billion a year with an average of just over £1,000 for every employee. These figures account for the costs of managing any workplace dispute including informal and formal disputes along with defence of legal claims and the costs incurred from sickness absences and resignations caused by conflict at work. These figures highlight the importance of effective conflict management to ensure the smooth running of businesses and to minimise costs arising from such disputes.

Workplace conflicts can make the difference between employees feeling motivated and engaged or disgruntled and disengaged. We know that early intervention in conflict saves money, time and promotes better wellbeing for staff. The Acas report highlights the significant impact that the pandemic has had on workplace conflict. While trying to adapt to the changes occurring due to the pandemic, many employers have then had less focus and time on managing effective workplace relationships. The number of conflicts is also likely to increase as people return to the workplace following the easing of restrictions.

Consider the following tips to help your business manage workplace conflict more effectively:

1. Communication – Most conflicts arise from lack of information, wrong information or poor information when communicating with staff. It is important for leaders of the business and managers to communicate effectively with colleagues. Providing clear and accurate information in a timely manner will reduce the number of workplace conflicts and the seriousness of those conflicts that do arise. Encourage two-way communications, tell staff what they are doing right, give feedback via one-to-one sessions on what is going well and what can be improved upon and ensure you conduct regular appraisals and organise team building exercises. Consider the best ways to communicate different types of information for example, verbally one-to-one, in an individual email, in a group email and via group discussions.

2. Address conflict when it does arise. Some conflicts are inevitable and it is important to take steps to address it quickly to minimise the negative impact it may have on the business. A manager should identify how the conflict arose and then find a safe environment to talk about it with the individuals involved. It is important to listen to what is being said, to fairly investigate the concerns and decide on goals collaboratively to manage this conflict to achieve a positive resolution for the parties involved. Additionally, employers should reflect on how well the strategies worked to resolve the conflict and to ensure strategies continue to be effective and efficient in the future. Employers should ensure they have a grievance procedure and that managers are properly trained in how to effectively manage workplace conflict and investigate grievances fairly.

3. Treat staff fairly and consistently – It is important that staff are treated fairly across the board which will assist in reducing incidents of conflict. Businesses should have an effective equality policy in place.

The Acas report can be accessed here.

If you require any advice on workplace conflict, please contact Farleys’ employment law and HR department on 0845 287 0939 or submit your enquiry through our online contact form. Our experienced solicitors can provide comprehensive legal advice tailored to your situation.