In the ever changing, complex world of work there can be many factors which have the ability to cause disputes between employees. These incidents can include factors less obvious than the commonly thought of bullying and harassment and can cover issues such as unfair treatment, unclear job roles, poor communication and leaving problems unresolved.

It is highly likely that disputes cannot be prevented from occurring. In the majority of workplaces, there will also be one example where an employee does not get on with another for the sole reason that there is a personality clash. In this instance, this is a dispute which cannot be prevented by better management, however you can prevent disputes from being blown out of proportion by creating an effective system to manage and resolve these.

The most effective way to resolve workplace disputes is to encourage positive conflict resolution and deal with issues as they arise. Minor irritants or niggles can be blown in to major disputes if they are left to fester amidst bad feeling. A key step to help ensure this doesn’t happen is to train managers and supervisors to be able to deal effectively with disputes or conflicts – these can often be difficult conversations to have and ones which managers do not look forward to, though they are essential. Other steps to help aid resolution are to encourage employees to bring forwards matters, listen to employees even if you believe their point has no substance, to not get involved in office politics, be fair during your handling and judgment of these and have clear discipline, grievance and dispute procedures to deal with conflict and disputes.

The possible consequences of leaving employee disputes unresolved are far-reaching. Within the workplace, conflict can often lead to a loss of productivity, a reduction in creativity, poor communication and ineffective collaboration. Taking in to account the health of your employees, you may find that leaving a dispute to fester and grow can lead to ill health, stress and, potentially, an employee having to take time off work for health reasons. In terms of recruitment, a poor resolution culture can result in lower employee retention and a loss of talented staff leading to higher recruitment and training costs. Workplace disputes have the potential to evolve in to incidents of bullying and harassment and the possible outcome of this is facing a constructive dismissal claim tribunal or, if the dispute was due to a protected characteristic, facing a discrimination claim where the award for compensation is unlimited.

If you need any clarification on this issue then contact the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.