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No conflict at work?

Learning & Development 1st November 2013

Don’t believe your organisation has conflict?  That’s probably not how your staff feel.

When we speak to potential clients, we’re often told ‘oh we don’t have conflict here’. Probe a little deeper and what do we find?  Grievances… high staff turnover… people off sick with work-related stress.

Or we’re mediating people who say, ‘the blame-culture round here makes me scared to admit I’ve made a mistake’. Yet the HR manager had told us only a day or two earlier that this was ‘just a personality clash’.

So I dare you to find out what your conflict at work culture really is!

Get out your HR files, investigation reports, staff surveys, HSE audits reports, exit interviews, tribunal records. Carry out focus groups with staff.  Talk to your union officials, welfare staff, key managers and staff members.

What you are aiming to do is to establish:

  • What this data tells you about your organisation – where, who, what, why is conflict arising
  • What works and doesn’t work for HR, managers, Unions, staff, the business, about how you normally respond to conflict and disputes?
  • What are the risks that conflict poses for your organisation now and in the future – in terms of talent retention, staff turnover, brand damage, litigation costs?

Key questions to ask

  • Content – What are conflicts about? Who between? Where in your organisation do they happen? What types of solutions emerge? Do they work? What are common triggers of conflict?
  • Interaction – How are people interacting when in conflict? How well do people trust one another? How are people feeling about themselves, others and the organisation? How do conflicts affect trust between the parties and the third parties that handle them (HR, Unions, Managers, Mediators)?
  • Process – What are the expectations of the parties? What types of outcomes to they want? How well are situations handled at local level? What externally supported dispute resolution processes do you have available? How about a facilitated conversation? What are the gaps?

And if you do find that there’s more evidence of conflict than you think – you know who to call!