Disagreements in the workplace: how to address them

Published on May 14, 2013 by Camille Brouard
disagreements in the workplace

We've all had to deal with disagreements in the workplace - either as a direct party or as someone mediating a disagreement, such as a line manager or HR manager. Some of these disagreements can be fleeting, whereas others can get tricky and contribute towards grievance or disciplinary procedures, perhaps even dismissal in some cases.

Workplace disagreements: the business costs

A recent Acas report has detailed that workplace conflict costs UK employers employers a staggering £28.5bn a year. Staff turnover was one of the most costly factors, with an average of 485,800 employees resigning each year as a result of conflict. Absence as a result of workplace conflict costs businesses £2.2bn a year and formal disciplinary cases (grievances, disciplinary cases, and disciplinary dismissals) costing £12.8bn.

How to tackle disagreements in the workplace

There are a series of articles published on HR Bartender concerning working with people that you don’t get along with. It’s inevitable that this will happen at some point or another in your career, but it is the way in which all parties conduct themselves which determines if and how their work is affected.

So, how do these articles recommend dealing with disagreements in the workplace?

1. Acting professional

In their first blog post, they challenge the notion that if you are professional then you should be able to work with anyone. This is of course a very general statement that implies that to be considered professional you must overlook immoral or unethical behaviour. The statement also overlooks the fact that everyone has flaws, and instead of asking colleagues to alter troublesome work methods, you should simply ask everyone to behave in a “professional” manner!

2. Dealing with problems

The second blog post addresses how to cope with a working relationship that has broken down. The conclusion is that one should not shy away from the issue and hide behind limited conversation and minimal contact. Instead it is suggested that being open and honest, without being confrontational, is the best way to overcome problems.

3. Managing conflict

The final article discusses what a manager should do when employees are either arguing or simply not seeing eye to eye. If the conflict is affecting their work, or the working environment, then it is necessary for management to intervene, discuss what needs to be done to move past the issue and help both parties achieve this.

Documenting disagreements in the workplace

Have you ever been in this position yourself, perhaps having to step in when two employees aren't getting along? Hopefully such situations can be solved informally, but in some cases an official grievance may be raised by one of more of the parties involved, or a formal disciplinary process may have to be followed. Disagreements may also bring in discrimination issues if protected characteristics are involved.

Documenting how you informally - and formally - deal with workplace disagreements is therefore vitally important. With a HR software system in place, you can securely keep all the HR documents you need in case a disagreement were to turn nasty down the line and cause issues for the business.

Learn more about how our document management tools can help you record and track any staff or HR issues so you always have the information you need.

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Read more from the myhrtoolkit blog

The business cost of ignoring workplace bullying

An employer's guide to unfair dismissal

This post was last updated on 14th May 2021

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Written by Camille Brouard

Camille is a Senior Marketing Executive for myhrtoolkit who writes on topics including HR technology, workplace culture, leave management, diversity, and mental health at work.

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