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Counting the cost: How mediation can save billions

Counting the cost: How mediation can save billions

According to Acas research, workplace conflict in the UK could cost nearly £30 billion annually. That’s a staggering amount of money slipping through the cracks, especially considering much of it is preventable

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Acas

Unfortunately, workplace conflicts aren’t going anywhere. With global events sparking differing opinions and social media amplifying contentious views, disputes are on the rise. Add to that new employment laws allowing flexible working requests from day one and proposed changes to unfair dismissal rights, and it’s clear that training managers in conflict resolution is a smart investment.

Economist Will Hutton highlighted that the UK’s dip in productivity and employee wellbeing is partly due to lower levels of employee engagement. Headlines about rising mental health issues and workforce dropouts underscore the need for better conflict management. While formal grievance procedures might provide a legal resolution, mediation offers a more genuine, lasting solution.

Focus on conflict management skills

Perhaps it’s time to shift our investment from leadership development to enhancing conflict management skills among frontline managers. By doing so, we could encourage employees to voice their concerns without fear of immediate retribution. If higher employee engagement translates to increased productivity, the business case for mediation becomes undeniable.

Overcoming the barriers

Of course, mediation is not a cure-all. Some level of dispute at work is inevitable. There are examples to be made, precedents to be set, instructions to be complied with. But even once you take those few cases out of that £30 billion, the business case remains the same for all the reasons we have known from the start – speed, cost, flexibility, discretion, and so on.

The main obstacles to broader use of mediation are history and fear. Historically, managers and staff reps have leaned towards adversarial approaches, partly due to misconceptions. Fear also plays a role; sticking to formal procedures feels safer, even if it destroys crucial relationships.

A call for cultural change

To embrace mediation, senior managers must support it as a default approach, reserving formal processes for rare exceptions. By addressing the fear of stepping outside rigid procedures and rethinking our approach to conflict, we can foster a workplace culture where employees feel heard, valued, and engaged.

Mediation offers a promising route to resolve disputes more amicably, saving billions in the process. By training managers in these vital skills and shifting cultural perceptions, you can turn workplace conflict from a costly burden into an opportunity for growth and harmony.

Read the complete article here.

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