How L&D Can Promote the Benefits of Conflict Management Skills


The fallout from the global pandemic has permeated all levels of business life. This includes strained relationships between employees. As working life increasingly returns to a “new normal”, more and more of these conflict issues become apparent. Learning and development and human resources play a central role in ensuring that conflict management skills are recognized as an invaluable part of the “day to day” work of a line manager.

Put your head in the sand

Although in pole position, line managers often do not address problems when they arise. A recent ACAS report found that nearly 10 million people face conflict at work each year, resulting in significant financial and personal costs. Yet only 23% of employees in conflict said they spoke directly to the other party. Of those cases, about half spoke to their manager, union representative or HR, with just 43% saying the issue had been fully or largely resolved.

A ‘send them to HR’ approach means managers don’t learn and practice conflict resolution skills

The report highlights both the extent of conflicts within organizations and the critical role managers play in their resolution. To help organizations meet this challenge, training and development and human resources must understand why line managers do not tackle conflict, and then engage managers on the importance of conflict management skills and training. practice for capacity building.

Supervisors can sometimes view conflict management as a chore, an unnecessary distraction from their day-to-day work, and not something that should be part of their managerial responsibilities. This perspective often translates into a ‘send it to HR’ approach, which not only tends to formalize conflict, but also means managers don’t learn and practice conflict resolution skills.

Building the business case

Since many line managers are responsible for cost control or have P&L responsibilities, describing the business impact of a conflict can help make the case for professional training. The ACAS report estimates that a grievance typically costs £ 951, a disciplinary sanction of £ 1,141 and a resignation on average £ 2,324 per person.

In contrast, when the conflict is resolved early and informally, costs are typically two-thirds lower. This highlights the potential cost savings for managers who have the skills to identify and help resolve conflicts within their teams.

When conflict is resolved early and informally, costs are typically two-thirds lower

Team management

It can be tempting to think of disputes as being limited to the parties involved. However, it is important for managers to recognize that unresolved conflicts can spread, which affects the entire team. Parties in conflict often spend a lot of time discussing the issue with other team members, which impacts time and productivity, as well as morale and engagement.

Conflicts often lead to absences and resignations, and other team members must either cover work or devote time to recruiting. None of this makes life easier for a busy manager. The skills to nip conflict in the bud are therefore a worthwhile investment.

Personal impact

An important part of the rationale for training is to communicate the personal impact of dealing with people in conflict. As conflict management and mediation professionals, we see the emotional strain of managers dealing with conflicting team members.

Line managers who have built strong relationships with their team often feel anxious when they see team members under extreme stress or suffering from the health implications of something the manager may think to be. product “under their supervision”.

A team that feels safe discussing issues is more likely to suggest new ideas and challenge the status quo

There is also the potential impact on personal “reputation”. A manager perceived by his team as not managing the conflict, or not managing it well, can lose the respect of his team. Disputes that result in formal processes, such as grievances, courts or legal proceedings, are often discussed at the top level, which is not the kind of profile boost most managers would like.

The opportunity

While HR and L&D can highlight how conflict skills and training help managers do their jobs, there is also an opportunity to promote the benefits of mastering these skills. For a line manager, being seen to be able to handle conflict well and support team members builds trust between them and their team.

A team that feels safe discussing issues is more likely to suggest new ideas and challenge the status quo, which results in better processes or innovation. Top performing teams are often made up of individuals with diverse and conflicting opinions who, when managed well, help teams build collaborative relationships and perform better.

In short, line managers who support their teams in conflict situations not only reduce the negative impact of conflict, but can also reap significant rewards.

Interested in this topic? Read Training in conflict management in a virtual world.


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