Surprising statistics in a recent ACAS report estimated that workplace conflict cost organisations £2.85 billion in 2021. Workplace mediation is becoming increasingly popular as a more efficient, cost-effective alternative to formal legal proceedings.
The Cost of Workplace Conflict
The ACAS report ‘Estimating the costs of workplace conflict’ was published in May 2021. The analysis was provided by Professor Richard Suandry of the University of Sheffield Management School and Professor Peter Urwin of the Centre for Employment Research, University of Westminster.
The headline statistics were a wake-up call.
- The cost of conflict to organisations was estimated at £2.85 billion, averaging out across employees this equates to more than £1,000 each.
- Close to 10 million people experienced conflict at work – of those over half suffered stress, anxiety and depression as a result.
- Just under 900,000 took time off work – nearly half a million resigned and more than 300,000 employees were dismissed.
This analysis was based on 2018-19, impacted by #MeToo and BLM, but pre-COVID, which has further changed the landscape of work and employee expectations, as socio-political aspects of society that impact the workplace. It is anticipated that the cost of living crisis and summer of discontent will also impact more localised conflict.
Workplace Mediation Is Restorative and Cost-Effective
There is a growing demand for a restorative justice approach. This is where workplace mediation is most useful – as an informal and early intervention, with a no blame and win-win approach and ideally before the conflict becomes too entrenched and toxic.
The role of the mediator in workplace mediation is to provide confidential, impartial and non-judgemental support to all parties. The mediator will foster a safe and constructive environment with open and honest dialogue to explore issues, with an aim to encourage participants to shift away from their adopted positions. The mediator will not direct or provide solutions – they come from the participants themselves, and own the outcomes.
How Does Mediation Work?
Workplace mediation usually takes place over a day, with some pre-planning and information for the participants, so they know what to expect. The individuals that take part must do so willingly, otherwise mediation will not work.
The individuals involved are helped to articulate what the issue is, and to be heard (each individual has uninterrupted time when they are brought together). It is an opportunity to explore feelings and needs, to share hurt, which is rare in the workplace. Each participant is heard. Everyone engages equitably.
The mediator will help all parties to generate and evaluate opportunities for future working. An agreement reached at the end can be useful, often just having the facilitated conversation can be enough to become unstuck and gain some movement and clarity.
Mediation can be used as an early intervention and an alternative to formal processes. It can be used part way through a formal process that will be paused, it can also be an outcome from a formal process It should not be used where there is a large imbalance of power, for bullying and harassment cases or where a formal disciplinary or grievance process is required.
Not all conflict is bad, conflict can be creative and help find solutions.
Narrow Quay HR offer a workplace mediation service. Our team of accredited mediators will be expanding in the autumn. We offer an initial free of charge meeting to explore if mediation would be helpful.