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Friendship wars named as surprising source of office conflicts

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In a survey of 1,000 British adults currently in full or part-time employment, Cascade HR asked each what they believe are the top causes of office conflicts.

Unsurprisingly, differences in working hours or taking on more tasks topped the list and was identified by a third of survey respondents. However, it was the nod towards the social relationships that go on in a modern-day workplace that filled out a number of spots on the list.

Oliver Shaw, CEO at Cascade HR, commented: “What is clear from these results is that a significant number of conflicts at work are started by colleagues feeling slighted in favour of other people. However, it’s concerning to see the number of workers who don’t feel their employer handles workplace conflict in an appropriate way.”

Top ten office conflicts

  1. Unfair workloads and disparity over work hours 32 per cent
  2. Friendship groups and cliques 27 per cent
  3. Gossip and rumours 31 per cent
  4. Preferential treatment for some staff 23 per cent
  5. Negative attitudes towards the company 22 per cent
  6. Salary and wage disputes 20 per cent
  7. Promotions and progression 21 per cent
  8. Staff arrivals and departures 19 per cent
  9. Unfair distribution of  training and development opportunities 18 per cent
  10. Extra breaks for smokers 15 per cent

Asked to reflect specifically on their employer’s ability to deal with situations like those identified as sources of office conflicts, less than half believe their company has a “clear” company policy on acceptable behaviour in the workplace. Some 54 per cent revealed they would try to sort out conflicts themselves.

Employees across the country called for more transparency across all levels of the business, particularly between management and the wider workforce, as well as regular team meetings to give management the opportunity to provide updates. Social events and team building were also identified as important alongside better employee recognition such as a staff member of the month prize.

Despite these more face-to-face morale improvements, regular pay reviews still topped the tree with 23 per cent as most likely to bring about improvements.

Most common source of workplace disputes

  1. Conflict between colleagues 35 per cent
  2. Conflict between departments/teams 17 per cent
  3. Conflict between workers and their direct manager 27 per cent
  4. Conflict between management and the rest of the staff 13 per cent
  5. Conflict between members of management 12 per cent

Looking at the impact office conflicts can have, 37 per cent said they struggle to maintain positive relationships with clients, suppliers or customers in the aftermath of an incident of workplace tension, with 57 per cent also indicating simply witnessing a conflict leaves them less motivated.

Cascade HR concluded that most businesses in the UK are failing to adequately deal with office conflicts, based on an inability to establish what kind of behaviour is acceptable.

“Opening up channels of communication between staff and management to explain why things are happening is a key way of dealing with the frustrations surrounding these issues. Employers should be seen to be taking conflict between members of staff seriously,” Shaw explained.

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