Sometimes you do have to make difficult decisions about work practices, pay and organisational rules and procedures, all of which may cause conflict in the workplace.
Effective and clear communication
You should ensure that all communication is relevant, concise and delivered in a suitable way. Employees should be consulted before decisions are made. See engaging with staff.
If you can't talk to each person individually, set up 'sounding boards' of employee representatives such as:
- Working groups to consider issues such as absence levels
- Staff councils or consultative committees to look at issues like new products and training
- Trade union representatives to negotiate terms and conditions of employment - in particular pay, hours and holidays are matters in law that must be discussed with any trade union recognised by the business. There can be legal repercussions if the trade union is bypassed in such a context. See work effectively with trade unions.
Dispute resolution procedures
It is also useful to have an agreement with your employees' trade union on how to resolve workplace conflicts in a systematic way. An agreement will generally cover:
- scope of who is covered by the agreement
- general principles and shared aims
- subjects for discussion
- stages for resolving a dispute
- third party involvement and when you will ask for external help
External help and advice
Getting help early will give you more options for resolving conflict and more chances of reaching a resolution.
If you do ask for help, you should decide whether you want someone to:
- work with you to find your own solutions
- advise you on how to resolve the problem
- tell you what to do
For external help in resolving workplace conflicts, you can contact the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) Helpline on Tel 028 9032 1442. The LRA provides free, impartial, confidential and independent information. See resolving disputes - LRA guidance.