Workplace conflicts are an unavoidable reality in an organisation’s existence. Where two or more interdependent colleagues develop personal or professional grievances with each other, the hidden and visible costs can have a devastating impact on the productivity of their work and therefore the organisation.
These conflicts can be complex due to the various external and internal drivers behind them. Some common causes include:
- poor management;
- personality clashes;
- unfair treatment;
- unclear job roles;
- inadequate training;
- poor communications;
- unresolved issues;
- poor work environment;
- lack of equal opportunities;
- needs and expectations;
- bullying and harassment.
The cost of conflicts at the workplace can be taxing for even the most stable organisations. The longer it takes for a conflict to be addressed, the more management time is expended in resolving it. This directly takes away from the time required to manage other organisational affairs. Additionally, conflicts that are allowed to ferment may eventually lead to a point of no return, risking time-consuming formal proceedings such as grievances, employment tribunals and civil claims. Sickness absence costs, the inevitable staff turnover and associated recruitment costs as a result of workplace relationships being damaged beyond repair can also have a crippling effect on the organisation’s finances.
Moreover, the highest cost an organisation begins to pay from the outset of a conflict until its resolution is in its productivity. This overarching costs quietly reduces the performance, growth, and of course the profits of an organisation. The following factors contribute to a lack of productivity amongst employees resulting from conflicts:
- Low morale and motivation.
- Lack of engagement.
- Poor decision quality.
- Loss of investment within the business and an “I don’t care” attitude.
It is therefore in the best interests of organisations to identify disputes at an early stage and have the correct mechanisms in place to resolve them as swiftly as possible. One of the most effective methods of dispute resolution at the workplace is mediation. Mediation provides a confidential setting where parties come together with an impartial mediator to resolve their grievances. It has proven to be a highly successful method of dispute resolution, as it focuses on the core drivers behind a conflict, allowing employees to express themselves in a safe space. The voluntary nature of the process lends it further credibility and invokes confidence amongst employees. Some of the benefits of early workplace mediation are as follows:
- Reduction in time, energy and cost managing the conflict.
- Successful mediation can rebuild relationships and help create a less stressful and more productive workplace.
- Less likelihood of formal procedures being initiated.
- The use of an independent and impartial mediation service demonstrates the organisation’s commitment to resolve the dispute fairly and constructively.
- Enhancement of staff communication skills and self-awareness, enabling them to resolve differences more quickly and effectively in the future.
- Quick to initiate and complete
- Parties in mediation learn more effective communication and problem solving skills that they can bring back to the workplace.
Essentially, it is imperative for the modern commercial and non-commercial organisation to cultivate a culture where disputes are recognised and resolved, rather than simply brushed under the carpet. Mediation provides the means of achieving this end, and is an investment in the workforce which will bring invaluable benefits to the long-term stability and success of any organisation.