Workplace conflict is time-consuming problem for business

Managing
conflict at work, including disciplinary and grievance cases and preparing for
employment tribunals, costs the average employer nearly 450 days of management
time every year – equivalent to the time of two full-time managers.

These
are the findings of new research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and
Development (CIPD). Survey responses were received from nearly 1,200 employers
working in organisations employing a combined total of nearly four million
employees.

The
figure of 447.9 days of management time does not take into account the
significant associated costs of mismanaged conflict at work, including lost
productivity, sickness absence and higher than expected turnover of employees.

The
survey is published on the eve of new Dispute Resolution Regulations that will
mean that all employers and employees must follow a minimum three-step
disciplinary and grievance procedure in the event of a workplace dispute.

The
research reveals that employers are optimistic that the new regulations, which
come into force tomorrow (1 October), will help reduce the burden on the
employment tribunal system.

Forty
per cent of respondents believe the new regulations will reduce the number of
employment tribunals. However, employers are fairly evenly split on whether the
new regulations will make tribunal hearings more (13 per cent) or less (15 per cent) complex.

Imogen Haslam, CIPD professional adviser and co-author of
the report, said: “Conflict costs employers hundreds of hours of management
time each year. It is encouraging that employers think the new regulations will
cut the number of employment tribunals. However, our survey shows that
employers need to invest more in resolving disputes at the earliest possible
stage, before they escalate and become subject to formal disciplinary and
grievance procedures.”

The
survey shows that employers need to improve the way that they manage conflict
in the workplace and reveals the huge extra workload for management created by
such disputes.

On
average, employers have had to handle three tribunal applications over the past
year, along with 30 formal disciplinary and nine grievance cases.

Respondents
report that disciplinary and grievance cases take up 10.5 days in management,
HR staff and in-house lawyers time per case.

Preparing
for a tribunal hearing takes up 12.8 days in human resource, line management
and in-house lawyers time.

“Too
many employers are still relying on HR to manage conflict at work. To make a
real difference, these workplace problems must be nipped in the bud before they
have to be dealt with using formal procedures. That means involving line
managers much more.

"Training
in conflict management and mediation is essential if line managers are to
become more competent and confident in managing conflict. Only then will the
waste of management time be reduced and more harmonious, more productive
relationships at work develop,” Haslam
said.

The
survey also reveals a lack of skills among line managers in resolving disputes
as well as a lack of training and an over reliance on HR departments.

Other
findings:

  More than half of respondents rate their line
managers as ‘average’ in the key area of resolving workplace disputes informally.

  Only 62 per cent train any employees in
conflict management skills and nearly a third among these do not train their
line managers.


Training in mediation skills is only carried out by one quarter of employees,
with HR managers significantly more likely to be trained than their line
management colleagues.


Those employers that provide mediation training for staff are likely to have
significantly less disciplinary cases, averaging 22 cases per year compared to
49 cases per year among organisations that don’t provide such training.


More than 60 per cent of employers have increased the extent to which they use
their HR departments to manage individual employment disputes.

By Quentin Reade

 

 

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