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WELL, THAT ESCALATED RAPIDLY! THE IMPORTANCE OF DEALING SWIFTLY WITH CONFLICT AND GRIEVANCES AT WORK
The average Brit spends 42.7 hours per week at work. That’s 42.7 hours per week spent with people who (in most cases) are not our family or chosen friends. We are arbitrarily thrown together into an environment where we are expected to work over 8 hours per day with colleagues whom we may not have anything in common with, or even like.
Most people luck out and get on well with their colleagues, forging strong working relationships, and ultimately a productive working life. However, we are all human, and we can’t like everyone all of the time. Sometimes it will be a simple case of a clash of personalities, but in more concerning cases it can be due to discriminatory attitudes and prejudice.
In a working environment these conflicts can cause many problems including tension in the workplace, disruption to colleagues, lack of motivation, lack of productivity, sickness absence, and sometimes even violence. These issues can cause employers the biggest headaches, and can lead to employment tribunal claims.
Therefore, it is really important for businesses to put in place effective mechanisms and policies which can address these issues, before they escalate into major and time-consuming disputes. Employers cannot afford to bury their heads in the sand and hope that it will blow over. It probably won’t.
As an overview, key actions that employers should take are:
• Look out for conflicts: managers should keep their eyes open for signs of conflict, including a fall in productivity, behavioural changes and sickness absence.
• Act quickly: as soon as any conflict becomes apparent, attempt to address and resolve it immediately and informally.
• Open door policy: create a culture that makes employees feel that they are able to approach their managers about conflicts and issues, without fear of reprisals.
• Consider mediation: can the issues be resolved through a discussion between employees?
• Grievance policy: have a policy in place that clearly sets out the grievance process and make sure this is communicated to all staff.
If you would like to learn more about the HR and legal aspects of dealing with workplace conflict and grievances, there are still a few places left on our interactive workshop on 22 September at the National Star College in Ullenwood, Cheltenham.
Together with Katherine Macbeth from HR consultants Heather Resource Management Limited, we will discuss how to identify conflict in the workplace, informal resolutions, formal grievances and investigations, and disciplinary issues.
For further information and to book, please visit www.willans.co.uk/events.
Partner Matthew Clayton heads the employment law team at Willans LLP