CEO of the Institute of Roofing (IoR), Stuart Hicks, discusses conflict resolution in the workplace and how individual training can be invaluable in these challenging times.
Many of us spend a large proportion of our week working, so the quality of this environment has a significant impact on our well-being.
Conflict in the workplace is unavoidable and extremely common in many organisations. Daniel Dana, an American business entrepreneur, author and mediation expert, famously said, ‘…unmanaged employee conflict is perhaps the largest reducible cost in organisations today – and probably the least recognized.” (Dana 2006: 13).
And this concept is still relevant today. A report issued in January 2020 by the not-for-profit organisation, Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), found during market research across several different sectors, more than a third of people had experienced some form of interpersonal conflict, either an isolated dispute or ongoing difficult relationship, in the last 12 months*.
Of course, not all conflict is necessarily negative, and in some cases can be valuable. But even a minor disagreement between people can fester and escalate if it’s not addressed and resolved at the earliest opportunity.
Changes to our Working Environment
We can’t ignore the recent developments following the outbreak of COVID-19, whereby all of us, where possible, are required to spend time or work from home.
The outbreak on a personal level will bring moments of worry, anxiety and a sense of community – but on a professional level, will inevitably also mean potential flashpoints and interpersonal conflict.
Adapting to change, remote working, loneliness, uncertainty, increased workloads and shifts in responsibly will all play a part. And although these are exceptional circumstances, cases of conflict will still have to be dealt with properly and in a timely way.
Furthermore, now is more important than ever to ensure the industry is economically successful, which brings into sharp focus the need to improve the way employees and employers manage their relationships and deal with change and differences of opinion.
Time for Training
The UK construction and roofing industry, for many years, has brought to the fore many complex inter-relationships and competing interests, which routinely creates discord between employers and their supply chains. When disagreements are not addressed early and effectively, they could turn into disputes – which can be slow and costly to resolve.
At a period when we need to keep unnecessary expenditure down where possible and probably have more time at our desks, remote online training could be the start to help lay the foundations of combatting one of the largest reducible costs in business.
The IoR offers an easy to access, 45-minute online ‘Conflict Resolution in the Workplace’ course. All members receive one free online learning course a year, or alternatively, this training costs £25 +VAT each. Both members and non-members of the IoR can complete the training.
This training is for anyone already working in a supervisory, or aiming towards this goal – and can especially benefit those who manage a team of people or client accounts.
The learning looks into what conflict is, its impact as well as its role in the workplace. It also covers some of the triggers for workplace conflict and how it develops before looking at a number of different ways of managing it, and how to encourage positive outcomes.
Invest in People
It makes more business sense to invest in employees, as the reputation of the company could be at stake. To help ride any storm, it is about maintaining a level of quality employees and investing in your people, which is sometimes vital to ensure long-term business success.
This is backed up by some of the conclusive findings of the CIPD report, which stated ‘If more organisations were aware of the potential benefits of training managers, perhaps more would be keen to invest in this area.’
Workplace conflict can’t be ignored, and there are all kinds of reasons for employees to feel pushed to their limit – especially with the current unpredictability with COVID-19. Technology means face-to-face contact isn’t a necessity, but keeping a grip on workplace relationships when there’s more potential for misunderstandings, silences and unconsidered messaging will be critical to the return to normality for everyone.
This outbreak is not an excuse to move away from best practice, and support in the form of self-development courses is always available through the IoR. It is important to stay informed, knowledgeable, and maintain a healthy relationship with your colleagues.