Like death and taxes, some things are inevitable. In the workplace, one thing that is certain is that you’ll have to deal with disputes and conflict.
We spend about one third of our lives in the workplace. The statistics suggest that a typical UK employee will experience six office romances and 812 workplace arguments, as well as brewing 7,967 rounds of tea or coffee for their colleagues. I can’t say for certain how many of those arguments will be caused by an office romance, or a badly made cup of tea or coffee, but you get my point. We’re all different and work requires us to rub along with others whose views and perceptions may be diametrically opposed to our own.
Disputes can come in many forms and guises at work. It might be an individual with a grievance, or, a problem between a manager and employee, or a conflict between two co-workers.
What is for sure is that workplace conflicts get in the way of work and make your business less productive. Morale can dip and management time can be wasted in dealing with an escalating dispute. Left unchecked or managed poorly, a dispute can pervade the workplace – and can lead to employment claims and additional stress, wasted time and costs.
What causes conflict?
The list is long. Commonly, the causes can be boiled down to the following:
- poor management
- unfair treatment
- a lack of definition over job role or function
- bad communication
- poor working environment
- a lack of equal opportunities
- bullying or harassment
- unresolved problems from the past
- an increase in workload
What can you do to minimise conflict?
Training and good communication are at the core of this, if you’re dealing with things proactively. But if you are having to handle a dispute which has already arisen, then the importance of open expression of opinions, listening to them and focussing on interests rather than defending a position are all critical. That is where mediation comes in.
How can mediation help?
Mediation should be central to your handling of dispute resolution in the workplace. It won’t slip any HR Manager’s attention that the Acas Code of Practice on Disciplinary Procedures specifically refers to the use of an independent third party to mediate.
Mediating workplace disputes works well. It is frequently successful. It is quick. It is a cost effective way of finding a solution to the problem. And by using an independent mediator, the parties genuinely feel that their voices are being heard, in contrast to internal procedures (grievance or disciplinary) which can be seen (often unfairly) as designed to protect the business.
Mediation has very positive benefits:
1. Dirty laundry gets aired and (mostly) cleaned – you are allowing contentious issues to receive the light of day, in a controlled environment. Rather allowing subtle grievances and badwill to undermine both personal performance and group dynamics, openly aired conflict has a chance of being resolved. Far better for all concerned than lingering resentment.
2. Constructive resolution of workplace conflict often becomes a gateway to improvement. You can discover new ways of tackling old problems, or identify ways of improving performance.
3. You can mend what were previously broken relationships.
How can Gotelee help you?
As an accredited Civil and Commercial Mediator, and with my background as a specialist Employment Lawyer, I have years of experience in handling workplace conflict and their resolution.
I provide a workplace mediation service (either in house or at your place of work) which focuses on the future and allow the parties to move away from historical issues, towards a healthy working relationship with mutually agreed practical solutions to the issues they face.
Find out more about mediation for the workplace.