Dispute resolution

It goes without saying that disputes in the workplace can be extremely tricky to deal with. But if problems are dealt with early enough, this usually provides the best chance of resolution. In this article, we provide you with guidance on how to avoid, minimise and resolve conflict in your place of work.

If small disagreements in the workplace are not dealt with properly and quickly, they can easily turn into bigger issues which can escalate and become employment tribunal claims and can even expand into industrial disputes. 

Most issues which may lead to an employment dispute can be resolved informally in the workplace between the employee and their immediate line manager as early as possible. Dealing with conflict at an early stage will save time, money and stress later on for both the employer and employees and can stop the situation developing into a full-blown dispute. But if an early and informal conversation doesn’t work, formal policies and procedures will be needed to avoid further difficulties. In this situation, Borders Employment Law can provide independent, impartial and confidential ways of helping both parties to resolve disputes and build effective productive working relationships. 

But sometimes issues do escalate and become formal legal claims with employees potentially lodging an Employment Tribunal claim, and if they do, we can provide you with advice and representation. Of course, reaching a settlement through mediation is always quicker, cheaper and less stressful for all concerned than a tribunal case, and again, mediation is a specialist service that we have extensive experience in. 

Borders Employment Law are specialists in all aspects of Dispute Resolution and can provide you with advice and representation should a problem arise in your workplace. In the meantime, here is an overview of the types of workplace conflict and their causes along with advice on what you can do to minimise and resolve conflict and how to properly prepare for these conversations with employees.

Types of conflict at work 
This might be an individual with a grievance, a problem between an employee and a manager or conflict between two co-workers. Any conflict can get in the way of work and make your business less productive. Some of the issues that can cause conflict between individuals and groups at work include:

• Ineffective or insufficiently trained management
• Unfair treatment
• Unclear job roles
• Poor communications
• Poor work environment
• Lack of equal opportunities
• Bullying and harassment
• Unresolved problems from the past
• An increase in workload

What can you do to minimise and resolve conflict in the workplace?
As an employer, there are some key steps that you can take to help ensure disputes and conflict don’t arise too often, but when they do happen, you are ready to deal with them:

Train managers to handle difficult conversations with employees
• Encourage open expression of opinions
• Recognise the importance of feelings
• Listen to what people have to say
• Focus on the issues not positions and personalities
• Have clear discipline, grievance and dispute procedures for dealing with conflict
• Write mediation into your contracts of employment and/or individual disciplinary and grievance procedures
• Consider outside help where necessary, for example, using a third party by way of mediation 

How can you prepare for difficult conversations with employees?

Your first step should be to check if there has been a mistake or misunderstanding that has caused the problem unintentionally. It’s always simpler to talk to people directly and informally about a problem. But having a one to one conversation about an issue requires both sensitivity and empathy. As an employer, you must try to:

• Listen to what individuals are saying and try to recognise any underlying causes of unhappiness or stress.
• Ask questions in a calm and measured way to put the other person at ease and let them speak freely.
• Re-phrase or re-interpret what has been said so that problems can be seen in a different light.
• Lead by example and set the right tone for the people involved. 

In Summary
Healthy relationships in the workplace are essential to the success of any business and even minor problems can develop into a grievance or dispute if they are not dealt with quickly and effectively. Having the right policies and procedures in place is also essential but where an issue turns into a problem, a positive result can be achieved through early and informal intervention.

Borders Employment Law can help businesses of all sizes to avoid and resolve problems with relationships at work – saving time, money and stress for both the employer and employees. From helping you to avoid and manage conflict in the workplace, ensuring that your policies and procedures are in place, to dispute resolution through the use of mediation up to full representation at Tribunal, Borders Employment Law are specialists in all aspects of Dispute Resolution.

Whether you are looking for advice to help you avoid or minimise conflict in the workplace or need help in dealing with a current issue or grievance, we are on hand to provide you with the advice and representation that you need.