Workplace Conflict: Is HR doing enough?

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Could conflict between employees be costing your business vast sums in resignations, disciplinary procedures and related sickness absence?

A new study by ACAS would suggest so. Their findings show that workplace conflict costs UK employers £28.5bn a year – approximately £1000 per employee per year!

The responsibility of solving these conflicts lies with HR departments – but are they doing enough to prevent conflict, and how could they do more? Since the pandemic began, there is good reason to suggest that conflict could increase when employees return to work and are back socialising with each other on a day to day basis. There are also challenges when employees are working from home full-time – feelings of isolation and a lack of reassurance from the wider team can contribute to potential conflicts. So, your HR department needs to be prepared to address issues between employees head-on, and quickly, because the sooner these issues are dealt with, the less long-term damage will be done to the company as a whole.

Some recommendations suggested by ACAS:

  • Taking the time to address issues early, and therefore investing in an earlier resolution
  • Empowering line managers with people skills training, to allow HR to devolve accountability to them
  • Revisiting policies, taking the emphasis away from compliance and focusing on resolution and wellbeing


How can I deal with problems earlier?

While it’s all very well promising to address these conflicts earlier than you might have done previously, it is harder to achieve in practice, especially when half the workforce is working remotely and far less communicative than they might have been in-office.

Fostering a culture of trust is key to dealing with employee-related conflicts because the more trust there is between line managers, HR, and employees, the more likely they are to actually tell you what’s going on, allowing you an early insight and therefore an early resolution.

According to Acas, only one in five employees took action in response to the conflict in which they were involved, while around a quarter discussed the issue with the other person involved.

Some ideas for building employee trust remotely:

  • Regular check-ins or virtual tea breaks with the whole team, to ensure everyone feels included and part of the bigger picture
  • One-to-ones focused around wellbeing and employee relationships as opposed to productivity or performance Re-affirming messaging sent out across all departments stressing the importance of work-life balance and company culture


You can also check out ACAS’ nifty guide to solving problems at work here.

Did you find this article useful? Youmanage is a comprehensive all-in-one HR software that empowers people managers and reduces HR costs, freeing up time for the things that matter. Why not book a free online demo with one of our specialist team to walk you through the ways Youmanage could help your business today?