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Cath Everett

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HR ineffective at conflict resolution


Although workplace conflict is on the up as a result of the stress caused by increasing workloads, less than one in five employees would turn to the HR function to bring about a resolution.


According to a study among 1,000 UK workers commissioned by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), some 87% of respondents felt that conflict levels had risen or at best stayed the same over the last 12-18 months, with 32% citing rising workloads as the main trigger. This compared with only 16% who said that money was a key driver.

Most of these disputes were internal to the organisation (59%), however, with challenging conversations most likely to occur with managers (32) and co-workers (27%) rather than customers or suppliers. But just under two thirds of those questioned felt that their employer was ill-equipped to handle the situation.

Karl Mackie, the CEDR’s chief executive, said: “All eyes are trained on the private sector as a beacon of hope for job creation, but the survey suggests levels of internal conflict that stand in the way of real business transformation.”

But conflict, when managed effectively, could boost morale and curb stress, helping to create an environment that was more conducive to achieving corporate goals, he added.

Worryingly, however, the report entitled ‘Tough Times, Tough Talk’ revealed that only 16% of employees believed HR was best suited to conflict resolution, ranking them second to bottom in terms of effectiveness.

Just under a quarter were keenest on the intervention of a neutral advisor, while 38% felt that their managers were the best ones to turn to. This contrasted with the attitudes of the managers themselves, however, 46% of which did not have the same level of confidence in their own abilities.

As a result, Mackie said: “We believe company charters should give greater priority to effective conflict management as a core value that’s championed across the organisation, from the boardroom to the shop floor. Those in leadership positions have a duty to skill up in this area and encourage more structured conversations, which can reveal more than one path to conflict resolution.”

Such conversations were important in light of the fact that many employers tended to simply ignore conflict (60%) or did not have the necessary problem-solving skills to deal with it (57%).


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