Navigating Workplace Conflicts and Investigations

Conflict is a normal part of working life. That’s why every successful Organisation takes a proactive approach to managing and resolving conflict. Failure to deal with Employee conflict leads to a range of negative HR consequences like low morale, high turnover and low retention. Managers and HR professionals who quickly identify the appropriate level of intervention needed to defuse workplace clashes or misunderstandings enjoy the best results in minimising the negative consequences of unresolved workplace conflict.  


The Frequency of Workplace Conflicts

Last year, our 2023 HR Pulse Barometer 7.1 revealed substantial increases across a number of metrics covering workplace conflict in recent years:

  • 52% of Employers reported disciplinary issues in 2022 (up from 31% in 2021)

  • 45% of Employers reported one or more grievances in 2022 (up from 29% in 2021)

  • 69% of Organisations experienced workplace conflict in 2022 (up from 46% in 2021)

  • 24% of Employers surveyed had employment claims at the Workplace Commission/Labour Court (up from 15% in 2021)

  • 45% of Organisations are spending more time managing Employee complaints

 
The latest figures will be available on April 10th 2024, with the launch of Adare HRMs HR Barometer 8.1.


Navigate the complexities of Workplace Investigations

In response to the support, Organisations have been looking for in relation to complaints that have escalated. Our experienced HR consultants have created an eBook that gives Employers best practice guidance for effective and compliant investigative processes and to help mitigate the huge risks associated with poorly managed investigations.
 

Download our Workplace Investigations eBook Now:


Common Causes of Workplace Conflict

Conflicts cannot simply be ignored; each situation is unique and requires a thorough understanding of the context of the conflict. What might be a small issue initially turns into a significant problem if not resolved at an early stage.  Where conflicts are not addressed effectively, Employees may suffer, and the disruption caused will add significant cost to the Organisation. It is common for workplace conflict to arise due to a breakdown in working relationships, poor communication, or unclear expectations and without effective conflict resolution mechanisms, Organisations can expect to encounter both financial consequences and low Employee morale.


Conflict Prevention Measures

Prevention is better than cure when it comes to conflict resolution and the following proactive measures help Employers reduce the risk of disruption caused by workplace conflicts.
 
Open Communication
Open and honest communication is one of the most important elements in conflict prevention and resolution. Employers should take steps to establish a culture in which Employees feel comfortable to voice their problems, thoughts, and ideas without fear of being judged or penalised. Regular team meetings, one-on-one conversations, and centralised feedback systems can all help to keep communication channels open and accessible to all staff.

Foster a Culture of Respect and Empathy
A workplace culture that promotes respect and empathy will go a long way in preventing and resolving conflict. Organisations that encourage Employees to listen to their colleagues whatever their background is will have better cohesiveness. Colleagues are more likely to engage in productive talks, identify common ground, and collaborate effectively when empathy and understanding are fostered, minimising the likelihood of confrontations escalating.

Provide Conflict Resolution Training
Probably one of the most important skillsets an Employer should equip Managers with is focused conflict resolution training, which will ultimately improve their capacity to handle disputes. Effective communication tactics, active listening, negotiation, and mediation skillsets should all be covered in training sessions. Individuals will be better prepared to manage conflicts and disputes in a timely and professional manner if they create a shared language and have confidence to intervene at an early stage to prevent escalation.

Establish Clear Policies and Procedures
It is critical to have well-defined policies and procedures in place. When disagreements happen, Organisations should provide a clear framework outlining the procedures to take.
 
The Workplace Relations Commission’s Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures is a useful guide for Employers to follow when developing or reviewing policies and procedures.
 
Many Employees who experience conflict choose to do nothing about it, while others resign over conflict without ever raising the issue with management. Ensuring Employees are aware of what conflict resolution mechanisms are available is vital to preventing conflict from escalating into more negative outcomes.

Aim to Defuse Conflict at the Earliest Opportunity
To minimise the negative impact of workplace conflict, Organisations should ensure that they are equipped to resolve issues before they escalate into a situation that undermines the employment relationship.
 
While procedures are important, early and informal resolution methods are often the best way to resolve workplace conflicts before they escalate. Organisations should therefore invest in ensuring that management have the skills and capabilities required to prevent and resolve conflict at the earliest opportunity.


Final word

Organisations that fail to prevent and resolve workplace conflict face considerable employment-related costs as well as lost productivity and efficiency. If conflict is not managed both from a strategic and practical perspective, it becomes a drain on management time and undermines organisational culture. To address any problems with workplace conflict, Organisations should focus on effective early management intervention that can help resolve both performance and interpersonal issues before they have wider HR implications.

HR Barometer 8.1 Launches on 10th April 2024

Thanks to all the Chamber members who participated in our HR Barometer 8.1. The survey closed on 22nd of March and our experts are busy analysing the results and identifying the top HR trends of 2024. We are excited to launch the findings on 10th April 2024, 9.30am - 11.15am.
 
The HR Barometer Briefing is a must-attend event for HR Practitioners who are seeking to inform and empower the agility needed for Strategic HR in 2024.

Please note this is an invite-only event hosted by Adare Human Resource Management.

More information is available here: 
https://www.adarehrm.ie/events/hr-barometer-series-8-1

 
If you require advice, guidance, or training regarding conflicts and disputes in the workplace, please contact any of the Adare Human Resource Management team at (01) 561 3594 or email info@adarehrm.ie for more information on how we can help and support your Organisation under our Partnership Programme.