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It is unfortunate that disputes between employees can occur in the workplace, but with so many personalities and opinions congregated in small working environments it is understandable why these can occur. People seldom get to choose who they work with and it is natural for personality clashes to apply. That is why organisations sometimes find out how teams can work better together through Myers Briggs analysis, identifying and recognising what personalities people have, so that better functioning teams can be structured. There can also be failures of management. There can be multifarious reasons for conflicts occurring in the workplace, whether it is personal issues affecting work performance or disagreements with plans and strategies that are being collated internally.

Workplace conflict can have a hugely negative impact on organisations. The CBI estimates that it costs UK business £33 billion per year, taking up 20% of leadership time and potentially losing up to 370 million working days. Further, the current economic climate means that many staff are facing redundancy, spouses or family members may have been laid off, and there may be changes to workers’ terms and conditions – all of which increase the potential for grievances to be raised.

Staff turnover costs British businesses at least £4.13bn every year as new employees take up to eight months to reach optimum productivity levels, according to research released today. 

The average fee for replacing a departing staff member is £30,614, says Oxford Economics and income protection providers Unum. This figure comprises two typical amounts – £5,433 for logistics, such as agency fees and advertising, and wages during the time when a new employee is yet to reach optimum productivity level, believed to be an average of 28 weeks at a cost of £25,182.

Recent research suggests that between 30–50 per cent of a typical manager’s time is spent managing workplace conflict, and that senior human resources executives spend up to 20 per cent of their time in litigation activities.

The costs of organisational conflict include staff absenteeism, attrition and litigation expenses; while low morale, productivity losses and impaired decision making are among the many hidden costs. Sometimes severe conflicts require restructuring of teams or business units.

Employees experiencing conflict should be provided with suitable ADR options; otherwise they are inadvertently forced down a formal grievance path that tends to become adversarial, and strains workplace relationships between colleagues, or managers and staff. While formal grievance procedures have their place for genuinely serious matters, they can do more harm than good for those everyday conflicts based on misunderstandings, work-style differences, poor communication and apparent competing interests. And therein lies the problem; unless low-risk early interventions are available, the small conflicts turn into the big conflicts, which often result in a desire for justice and revenge regardless of the secondary costs. People get hurt and organisations suffer.

Personal impact of conflict

Workplace conflict also has a personal impact. The prospect of dealing with disputes – from a small dispute between two colleagues to an organisation-wide industrial relations issue – can become a drain on emotional resources.

If disputes do arise they need to be dealt with in an appropriate and efficient manner but internal policies and procedures can be unhelpful to finding a suitable resolution.

This is where mediation can be beneficial, ensuring a solution can be found and the parties can come to an agreement. Most importantly, it can also be a great way to keep morale positive and preventing disputes having a detrimental effect on the overall team.

What is mediation?

  • Mediation can also be a great way to keep morale positive without problems between employees having a detrimental effect on the overall team.
  • Mediation methods can be far more efficient to finding a suitable conclusion than disciplinary or grievance procedures
  • The mediator is there to listen to what is said confidentially, guide the parties and document any agreements that are made.

Mediation is a dynamic, structured, interactive process where a neutral third party assists disputing parties in resolving conflict through the use of specialised communication and negotiation techniques. All participants in mediation are encouraged to actively participate in the process.

Mediation is a voluntary process that allows both parties to reach an agreed resolution to resolve the matter in a private setting. It can also be considerably less costly for businesses than losing a member of staff and having to incur recruitment costs.

Mediation is frequently employed to assist people to explore the basis of their conflicts, explore options and develop agreements. However, there can be risks in bringing individuals together when emotions are high, and insight into the conflict is limited; what is said in the heat of the moment can live for a long time in the corporate memory. These problems can be avoided if thorough assessment precedes the decision to mediate, and if investment is made in adequate one-on-one preparation with each of the parties

How it can be beneficial?

It can resolve the dispute quickly

By employees having their own space and discussing the matter in a controlled environment, it provides a better space for each of the parties to hear out their counterpart. Unlike tconventional means where many legal matters and formalities are required to be agreed before discussions can be had, mediation methods can be far more efficient to finding a suitable conclusion.

More likely that employees will follow through with the outcome of mediation

Mediation is a process that allows parties to agree their own terms rather than another party influencing the decision, so it generally provides a higher rate of success and it is likely that the agreements will be complied with and they’ll follow through, as it is a consensual process.

Agreements aren’t always reached, and individuals and HR practitioners must then introduce management strategies to deal with the conflict. Failure to resolve can lead to a number of disruptive impacts including one or both parties leaving the organisation.

Employees are more satisfied

Mediation is a “party-centered” process in that it is focused primarily upon the needs, rights, and interests of the parties. The mediator uses a wide variety of techniques to guide the process in a constructive direction and to help the parties find their optimal solution. A mediator is facilitative in that she/he manages the interaction between parties and facilitates open communication.

In an open forum where avenues can be explored and creative solutions can be recognised, it allows parties to make suggestions on their own terms (providing that the other party agrees). This means parties can tailor the terms to their own situation, making it more suitable and manageable. Therefore, the party can come out of the mediation more satisfied with the conclusion of the terms and prevents the situation from impacting them in a negative way.

Helps to preserve working relationship

Many dispute resolution alternatives tend to have the possibility that the final decision could be a win or lose situation for the party. If another party loses out, it can damage the internal working relationships which may not be beneficial in the long term. Furthermore, if a termination is the agreed outcome, a mediation can make it more amicable as it is the parties that have come to the agreement of this rather than a third-party.

Privacy for parties involved

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the mediation process is the dispute is negotiated within a private environment where only the parties and the mediator are present in the process. The mediator is there to listen, make suggestions and document the agreements that have been made. What occurs remains strictly confidential and there can be no influence from other people in the organisation, which ensures the right settlement is reached.

Should your business use mediation?

Mediation is an ideal form of dispute resolution that can be extremely cost-effective and an efficient way to resolve disputes. If you come across a dispute in the future within your organisation, it’s an option that is well worth considering.

To arrange a workplace mediation please contact us at