The Cost of Conflict at Work

Many businesses experience conflict at work.  While some disagreement can lead to healthy debate, conflict can be disruptive.  According to a new ACAS report, it can also be extremely costly.

ACAS’ report, “Estimating the cost of workplace conflict“, has some sobering statistics.  It found:

  • In 2018  – 2019, 9.7 million UK employees experienced conflict at work.  The working population is c31 million people.
  • Only 5% of those people resigned.
  • The cost of recruiting and training their replacements was estimated to be £14.9 billion.
  • 40% of those that remained in their jobs, said they felt less motivated as a result.
  • Conflict related sickness absence cost £2.2 billion.
  • The management time spent dealing with employment tribunals cost c£282 million per year.
  • With another £264 million spent on legal fees.

Conflict at work leads to poor morale, staff turnover and costs to your business.


Potential Causes

We all have our own history and beliefs that influence the way we look at things.  Some things that seem unimportant to us can be hugely significant to others.  Football is a prime example.  Many people have been glued to the Euros. Others can’t wait for them to be over.

That’s the same with work.  One person’s necessary improvement can be another person’s unreasonable criticism.  Conflict can arise from many areas including:

  • resistance to change
  • ineffective communication
  • unrealistic expectations
  • poor work habits
  • personality clashes
  • poor working environment

Potentially, returning from furlough may be a source of conflict.  “You’ve had all this time off while we have been working” V “everything has changed and everyone expects me just to get on with it”.


Dealing with Conflict

Conflict needs to be nipped in the bud.  If it isn’t, it can escalate and infect other people.

Speak individually to those involved. Find out what is happening and what is concerning them.  Listen carefully and you may be pleasantly surprised at how small adjustments can make a big difference.

Sometimes, encouraging them to understand another’s perception can be helpful.  Again, back to the football. As an Arsenal supporter, I cannot understand anyone wanting Spurs to win.  Spurs fans would, of course, not agree.  Our perceptions of exactly the same thing are completely different.  To a Chelsea fan, we are both wrong.

If you have tried to resolve matters yourself and conflict still exists, you may want to try Mediation.  Mediation has proved to be a very effective way of resolving disputes informally and one where the parties stay in control.


If you are experiencing a workplace conflict or would like to find out more about mediation, please contact me.

Categories Communication, Disciplinary, Staff Performance