By Claire West

New study from CEDR reveals one in three people across the UK believe conflict in working life has increased.

The UK’s conflict hotspots reveal different triggers for conflict in working life, according to a new study commissioned by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution. In the Tough Talk survey of 1,000 people in full-time employment, money was not the number one reason for conflict in working life over the past 12-to-18 months, despite wide-spread fears about redundancy and job losses. As a national average, people were twice as likely to cite workload (32%) than money (16%) as the primary reason for “challenging conversations”, according to the survey findings.

On a regional basis, the survey revealed:

- More Scottish people (43%) believe that conflict increased in the last 12-18 months, compared to other regions

- Scotland had the highest percentage of people who were most likely to find themselves at conflict with managers (43%), followed by Northeast England (41%)

- The Southwest is the most conflict-avoidant region; upon finding themselves at conflict with other people, 35% of those surveyed “wish they could have avoided it”

- People in Yorkshire and the Humber experienced the greatest conflict with customers (36%); and one out of five (20%) respondents from the region cited money as the most common reason for challenging conversations

- Workload was the primary source of challenging conversations for 41% of respondents in Northeast England

- By contrast, one in five Londoners (20%) are more likely to find themselves at conflict about quality

- More than half (54%) of those surveyed from the East Midlands said “loss of morale” was the worst consequence of unmanaged conflict, whilst “the creation of stress” was top-ranked In Scotland (44%) and London

- In terms of recent contributors to conflict in working life, more than half (55%) of Welsh respondents cited the economy, but three in four (76%) said conflict was exacerbated by “too much change and too little communication”

Existing research by CEDR shows that conflict costs business £33 billion every year. This cost represents more than a third of the savings pledged by Chancellor, George Osborne in the recent government spending review.
Eighty-eight per cent of those who participated in the 2010 Tough Talk survey agreed that conflict is costly on UK business. However, a combined 87% felt that levels of conflict had stayed the same or increased, while only 8% believed levels of conflict had decreased.

“Conflict is as firmly embedded in UK working life as the afternoon tea break. Instead of ignoring it, we should help organisations change their attitudes towards conflict,” said Karl Mackie, chief executive officer, CEDR. “With the right tools and support infrastructure, we can avoid a pushing people to their breaking point as well as help businesses move
closer towards their goals.”

CEDR’s work in conflict management, reflected in a new guide, ‘Tough Times, Tough Talk’, asserts that a level of comfort with difficult conversations and working knowledge of systems for addressing conflict is a vital skill for survival in the 21st century.

CEO Mackie will be joined by industry leaders in mediation and alternative dispute resolution to launch the study at the upcoming CEDR 20th Anniversary Awards Dinner on 17 November.

CEDR’s ‘Tough Times, Tough Talk’ guide can be downloaded from www.cedr.com/toughtalk.

You can also follow us on Twitter @cedrsays for the latest news and commentary in the field of international alternative dispute resolution.