HR BLOG: Managing conflict

In the morning, as you walk through the workplace, stop and listen to the conversations going on. It is so easy to switch off and just think about your day, the meetings ahead, and accept what is going on as par for the course. But that attitude, if it masks bad behaviour, can land you in serious trouble.

Failing to monitor workplace communication can lead to an escalation of conflict. It can go further than the childish name calling that politicians have been enduring recently.

Yes… Westminster’s at it too!

In the latest political rough and tumble (you might need a dictionary for this one), Boris Johnson dubbed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn a “mutton-headed old mugwump” – a term used by Native Americans to describe a war leader.

Labour’s response was, if possible, more surreal. The deputy leader, Tom Watson, responded by calling Boris a “caggie-handed, cheese-headed fopdoodle with a talent for slummocking about.”

Come on people, stick to the politics!

Banter at work never harmed anyone, right?

Other insults more commonly found in the English language can strike a nerve too. In these instances, the excuse of ‘oh, it’s just a bit of banter’ is not a defence. If it won’t hold up to a tribunal judge, it shouldn’t be used as an excuse in your place of work.

The discrimination cases are endless against employers that fail to act on complaints about discriminatory language such as ‘gay’, ‘old’, or racist or sexist terminology. And this can really hurt SMEs.

The gossiping, the whispers, the bitching and bullying. It impacts on your company culture and saps the energy out of your workforce. Yes, punches might not have been thrown, but potentially worse damage is being done as resentment bubbles under the surface.

The solution to managing workplace conflict

There are several things you should be doing if you aren’t already. Have a clear policy that sets out what is, and what is not, acceptable – and then monitor it. Managers must lead by example and have a zero-tolerance attitude towards this behaviour.

Have a clear grievance process so that anyone feeling bullied or intimidated has a way forward.

But don’t jump the gun and presume guilt – investigate and gather evidence before taking necessary action.

Train yourself and your management team to spot problems. With these skills, your management team will have the confidence to nip any conflict in the bud safely, posing minimal risk to the welfare of your team and your business. Check out our events page, as we’re currently running conflict management training in multiple locations.

The HR Dept are here to help

Managing workplace interaction isn’t easy and we have never seen two cases that’re the same. But although your circumstances may be unique, you can always ask your local HR Dept expert for support.