The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has launched a new conflict management guide for line managers.
Managing Conflict Guide for Line Managers aims to help equip line managers with the skills and confidence to intervene at an early stage to prevent disputes from escalating to the point where the formal disciplinary or grievance procedures have to be used, or an employment tribunal application lodged.
Ben Willmott, CIPD employee relations adviser, said that too often managers shy away from tackling conflict in case they do or say something that might be held against them during any formal proceedings.
"This approach is counterproductive. By the time a dispute has escalated to the point where the disciplinary or grievance procedure is used opinions are often hardened, confrontational and very hard to change."
The guide highlights essential management behaviours crucial for tackling the problem, underpinned by key areas including dealing with issues, use of official processes, a participative approach, monitoring team relationships, role modelling behaviour and integrity.
Willmott added: "Our research shows that only 38 per cent of employers train their line managers in conflict resolution skills, despite the huge impact that disputes at work have on organisations. It is not just management time wasted and financial costs that employers must take account of but also the personal cost of individuals under stress, employee absence, dysfunctional teams and damage to morale and productivity."
In a warning to businesses, Willmott said that in many cases allowing the problem to fester results in employees voting with their feet and leaving organisations where conflict is not managed effectively. In many cases employees will simply vote with their feet and leave organisations if conflict is not managed effectively.
The guide is based on new joint research by the CIPD and the Health and Safety Executive involving interviews with 369 managers and employees in the healthcare, finance, education, local and central government sectors.