Does Britain have a workforce of warring colleagues? A major study into workplace conflict by international law firm Eversheds has revealed that, away from the boardroom, employees in the telecoms sector are regularly at odds with each other. Despite 60 per cent of people working in the telecoms sector believing that conflict is unhealthy, over a third of workers in the sector (38 per cent) clash with their colleagues on a weekly basis – showing that conflict is rife in the workplace.
But, what type of behaviour is causing this? While 44 per cent say there is a known troublemaker in the workplace, the behaviours most likely to create tension between workers are constant talking and interruption, refusal to work as part of a team and taking credit for other people’s work. It is junior managers that are most likely to bear the brunt of this, since half of those surveyed complained about others taking credit for their work.
While conflict between colleagues is an issue, the majority of workers (56 per cent) try to avoid it. The research shows that workers in the telecoms sector are most comfortable challenging our peers or direct line managers, but shy away from situations that could lead to conflict with the boss or those they manage. A significant proportion of people in the sector (46 percent) admit that they find it difficult to challenge colleagues on their performance – particularly when it could be taken personally and cause offence.
Annelise Tracy-Phillips, telecoms and employment law partner at Eversheds, comments:
“This research highlights two important issues for businesses in the telecoms sector – firstly the need to manage conflict in the workplace and also the need to address the apparent fear among workers to feedback on bad performance in case it leads to conflict.
“In terms of managing conflict between employees, there is a fine line between healthy debate and a more heated situation, which can be counter-productive and result in divisive tensions within the workforce. It’s no excuse for employers to say that conflict between staff is symptomatic of the working culture. Conflict that is left unchecked could lead to cases of bullying, harassment and stress, which could all result in litigation.
“Equally serious for businesses is the finding that employees, particularly junior managers, don’t like challenging colleagues on their performance in case it causes conflict. This is a serious issue, particularly as the research shows that this reluctance to raise issues is fairly widespread. Anyone with line-manager responsibility should be trained to give feedback on performance in a constructive and clear manner – without this training, businesses are exposed to the risk of litigation.”