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CIPD Press release

Poorly Managed Conflict Is Crippling British Business

06 October 2008

According to figures released today, poorly managed conflicts in the workplace are crippling British business. The average UK employee spends over two hours a week dealing with conflict, which means in total more than 370 million working days were lost last year at a cost to British employers of more than 24 billion.[1].

The statistics are from a new global report Fight, Flight or Face It, jointly authored by business psychology firm OPP and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). It surveyed thousands of employees in nine countries across three continents, in businesses of all sizes and in all sectors. A second survey[2] revealed the opinions of 660 HR professionals in the UK, allowing for a balanced employee/employer view on conflict.

The figures reveal that stress and heavy workloads are cited as causes by 34% and 33% of employees respectively, although half (49%) feel that personality clashes and warring egos are the number one cause (49%) - all factors requiring close management in tough times.

Robert McHenry, CEO of OPP, says: "Workplace conflict is nothing new. But in the context of the current economic downturn, businesses could see steep rises in conflict as workloads increase, budgets shrink and stress levels rise. The fact that there are too few managers in British business with the insight to handle it effectively could cost us dearly."

"When dealt with in the right way, conflict can actually lead to positive outcomes such as more effective teamwork and greater innovation. Training is vital because it allows managers to understand and deal with the underlying causes."

The research also found that:

* Over half of employees (54%) and many more HR professionals (80%) want managers to address underlying tensions before they escalate into conflict

* Training adds value: over half (58%) of employees who have had training now look for win-win outcomes from a workplace conflict

* In countries where training is more prevalent, positive outcomes from conflict are far more common.

As to the consequences, a quarter (27%) of employees have already seen disagreements involving personal attacks or insults, while one in six (16%) have actually seen conflicts lead to people being fired. Meanwhile, the majority of HR professionals (63%) have seen employees become ill or absent following a disagreement within their organisation.

According to HR professionals, most conflict is seen in departments at the operational level, such as customer service, where it has a direct impact on the performance and reputation of an organisation. However, conflict also exists at the senior levels, where others in the organisation take their cue: 12% of employees say that disagreements among their senior team are frequent or continual.

Over the course of the average 44-year career[3], employees will spend nearly six months dealing with workplace conflict. It could actually be time well spent, but only if they are able to do so effectively.

Linda Holbeche, director of research and policy at the CIPD, thinks that conflict management should be an integral part of leadership and management training:

"Conflict is an inevitable part of the workplace and can be very damaging and costly if not managed properly. Managers must be able to identify the early signs of conflict and intervene and diffuse situations before they escalate if teams are to work productively and harmoniously. Managers must also manage under-performance firmly and fairly, as well as pick-up on when banter starts to become bullying or when workloads become excessive.

"Just as importantly managers must learn to manage in a way that does not create conflict by providing clear objectives, communicating effectively and planning and managing individual and team workloads appropriately."

Notes regarding this Press Release:

OPP is an international business psychology consultancy.

OPP's experienced consultants work with clients in the areas of assessment, development and teams. as well as in conflict management skills. OPP offers leading personality assessment tools, including MBTI Step I, MBTI Step II, 16PF, FIRO-B, and TKI.

OPP also supplies psychometric qualification training, including BPS-accredited certification in Level A and Level B, and a range of applications workshops for HR professionals, psychologists and development practitioners.

Fight, Flight or Face It: celebrating the effective management of conflict at work The Fight, Flight or Face It report is a joint publication from OPP and the CIPD. It's based on an extensive research project amongst full-time workers in the UK, the USA, France, Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Brazil, Belgium and the Netherlands as well as CIPD members.

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* The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is the United Kingdom's leading professional body for those involved in the management and development. They have 130,000 individual members and their objectives are to lead in the development and promotion of good practice in the field of the management and development of people, for application both by professional members and by their organisational colleagues.

Source: CIPD

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