“Most conversations with him are a negotiation, it’s never straightforward”

“There are times when I have to tell her to be quiet, she’s quite a demanding colleague”

“There was a clash of personalities and it might have been difficult to be in a close space with someone who you’re not getting on with so well”

Professional differences, misunderstandings, different ways of working, a sharp tone under pressure and a lack of respect for individual differences are all too familiar prompts for escalating workplace conflict. Although workplace conflict is widely acknowledged as distracting and costly, it is always worth taking a moment to reflect on those potential costs. High absence, low morale and poor productivity, plus, as the situation escalates, irretrievable breakdown, legal costs and damage to reputation, all of which can result from poor working relationships, at any level.

Alongside the more easily recognisable workplace conflict scenarios such as grievances against managers and complaints about working practices or terms and conditions, there are the everyday working relationships. Colleagues, peers or inter-departmental relationships for example, harbouring negative behaviours and simmering tensions.

Working relationships with a healthy respect for difference can, in addition to reducing the risk of costly conflict, offer rewards in all areas of the business as well as to the team and individual.

What do we need to build and maintain healthy working relationships?

As we strive to build healthy working relationships, managerial ability and confidence to deal with negative interpersonal behaviours can be far-reaching. Having the confidence to step in early, along with the knowledge of a variety of interventions, facilitating one-to-one and third party discussions around behaviour and interpersonal communication, for example, can help to resolve differences informally. Equally important is the overarching workplace culture and meaningful corporate values.

A grievance procedure with a resourceful informal stage can offer a practical framework to develop workforce skills and confidence. Facilitated meetings, for example, and positive communication techniques, signposted independent third party support and information points, included as informal mechanisms for resolution can inform development pathways across the whole workforce. In addition, managers with the skills and confidence to navigate the intricacies of interpersonal workplace communication can embed positive behaviours and build a productive working environment.

Take a moment to gauge your confidence and ability to step in early

“The atmosphere was intense. We weren’t going to hit the monthly targets, everyone was stressed and on edge. There were three senior managers copied in to the emails and they saw first hand what was going on and the things he was saying. His behaviour was obviously unacceptable, even with the stress of it all. Not one of those senior managers stepped in to row it back. I went home that day and signed off sick.”

As one of the senior managers in this scenario, what would you have done?


MEANINGFUL Corporate Values



RESOURCEFUL Informal Grievance Procedure

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