Our research on conflict management examines the current state of working relationships in UK organisations. It draws on the views and experiences of employers and employees, gathered from surveys and focus groups conducted by YouGov.

The findings highlight the critical issue of bullying and harassment in UK workplaces, and the devastating impact unfair treatment can have on individuals and organisations.

While the research is based on UK data, the broader implications should be of interest wherever you are based.

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Managing conflict in the modern workplace

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What do the findings mean for people professionals?

The findings are particularly pertinent for people professionals, given that conflict is part and parcel of organisational life.

Yet our research reveals a continued reliance on formal processes and procedures to resolve conflict, as well as a gap in how well employers and people managers think they deal with conflict, compared with the experiences of employees who’ve been on the receiving end of it.

Importantly, people managers are just as likely to exacerbate a conflict situation as they are to resolve it.

This conflict can, if unaddressed, fester to the point at which the formal disciplinary route appears to be the most reasonable course of action.

The report highlights the key challenges people professionals face in helping their organisations handle conflict effectively. The emphasis is on recognising and nipping conflict in the bud, responding quickly and sensitively to complaints, and ensuring people managers are equipped to manage conflict accordingly.

Guidance for people managers

Managing people is a demanding job which typically comes with a host of other responsibilities (only one of which is conflict management); performing these on top of one’s operational role can be challenging. 

Failure to provide managers with ongoing support, expertise and guidance makes the task even more daunting. 

Yet people managers need to recognise that they too, as our research finds, can play a leading role in conflict – sometimes even going so far as to cause it. 

For this reason, we’ve put together guidance to help managers proactively identify and manage conflict so that they can become part of the solution – not the problem. 

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