HRLegal Newsletter June 2022: Colleagues In Conflict: Why Workplace Strain Is On The Rise

Welcome to the June edition of the HRLegal Newsletter. This monthly collection of focused features seeks to keep readers abreast of all updates in the quickly developing world of human resources and employment law. As we enter a new world and way of working, HRLegal is at hand for all advice in relation to all things people and HR. Our responsive and personable team of experts are available by phone, email and via our social media channels for any support they can provide. 

Read on for explainers and features compiled by our experts, Una Clifford, Bláthnaid Evans and James Condon. For more on how we can assist your business, visit www.hrlegal.ie. 

Colleagues in conflict: Why workplace strain is on the rise 

James Condon, HR Business Partner

In this edition of the HRLegal Newsletter, we discuss the issue of workplace conflict/strain among employees and how it appears to be on the rise again as we return to more regular ‘in-person’ working. It is extremely important for businesses to ensure they take a pro-active approach in managing potential areas of conflict and strain. Managing conflict can be a very difficult skill and is one which requires thought and a lot of attention.

The increase in workplace and colleague strain has been a difficult side effect of the return to office for many businesses. The adaptation period for many employees reverting to a full-time office based or a more hybrid role has led to an uptick in well-being issues, conflict between employees and a reduction in employee engagement. The adaptation phase has posed many problems for employees on both an individual level and on a team/workload basis.

HRLegal has for example, seen an increase in employees having issues surrounding their personal circumstances such as childcare, relationships and financial issues. On the other hand, we have also seen a rise in team conflict as managers and employees are struggling to merge various working patterns and increasing workloads. The struggle with adapting back to ‘office life’ has started to show up in various ways as employees are faced with a less structured/ formalised day. We have all become very used to using our calendar to structure our entire day and mapping out nearly all of our work- related conversations.

New challenges for employees

Now as we return to the office, there is a greater likelihood of more spontaneous interactions with colleagues, and this can actually cause employees stress as they look to readapt. Without being in the same space as colleagues, it was harder to veer from pre-planned meeting times when other people have confirmed that they will be available. Some employees are now struggling with managing their day and workload. The knock-on effect on individual and team performance can increase stress and can ultimately create tension within teams as the blame in passed around.

During lockdowns and working from home, it was also easier for employees to avoid uncomfortable or challenging situations with other colleagues. Without the inevitable face to face run-ins with colleagues, issues that probably should have been addressed were easily put off or ignored. Now as employees return to the office and need to interact more frequently with a wider network, workplace tension has increased and is much harder to avoid or ignore.

Additionally, in many businesses now, there may be tension or resentment from employees who had to continue to work in-person during the pandemic towards those who had greater flexibility working from home. Added to the lack of in-person contact and connection over the past year, such resentment can widen the worker-management divide.

It is extremely important for businesses to ensure they take a pro-active approach in managing potential areas of conflict and strain. Managing conflict can be a very difficult skill and is one which requires thought and a lot of attention.

HRLegal would advise business to mitigate potential areas of strain by implementing some of the below steps:

Communication is key.

Ensure regular communication between employee and their direct managers. This relationship is the most important of all. Managers should take the time to meet and check in with their team on a regular basis and should be aware of any issues an employee might be having.

Additionally, involving the employee/team in open conversations will also greatly help this process. Managers may also look to hold regular informal catch-ups and allow team members to outline their current status on working pattern, workload and priorities. Such meetings can be very useful in reducing conflict. For those employees who are primarily virtual, management may need to plan conscious intentional ways that can help them get to know other colleagues and build upon current relationships.

Plan and performance manage.

Try and find the right working pattern for each employee/team and ensure solid performance management practices are in place. Performance management could ultimately fall under the above heading of communication, but it should go beyond just having a conversation. Setting and reviewing goals regularly can help employees who are struggling to manage their workload as they readapt.  

Identify and address conflict early.
Ensure any bubbling conflict is addressed as early as possible. Generally, conflict between employees can be dealt with informally if caught in the early stages. Identify any trends within the conversations managers have with employees and pre-empt/plan solutions accordingly.

Provide support and promote empathy.
Adapting back to more in-person interactions and ‘office life’ can be very stressful for some and so business should look to promote understanding and empathy. Businesses should look to promote well-being and support initiatives for employees. Ensuring managers looks for context around any regular conflict areas between employees and identifying triggers is very important. Conflict and strain are a normal occurrence but can be minimised when there is a culture of openness and acceptance that people work in various ways and have different styles.

If your business is looking for advice around managing workplace conflict or would like to discuss any of the items mentioned, please visit www.hrlegal.ie

Quick clicks

Social media is a great way for HRLegal to engage with HR-related conversations globally and brief our followers with explainers on the more perplexing, intriguing, or newsworthy issues on the topic.

Have a look at some of our latest social media updates:  

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The summer months can be a very good time to conduct performance review meetings with your employees. The HR experts at HRLegal can help you plan these meetings – see our key tips, here.

Research shows that organisations who make accommodations for neurodiversity – workers with autism, ADHD, Asperger’s, dyslexia, or dyspraxia – reap the rewards of higher productivity, more creativity and better retention rates. Many organisations are now seeing these benefits following the introduction of steps to promote inclusion. We provided a list of steps on our LinkedIn page – have a read.

For regular topical updates like these, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

ocial media is a great way for HRLegal to engage with HR-related conversations globally and brief our followers with explainers on the more perplexing, intriguing, or newsworthy issues on the topic.

Have a look at some of our latest social media updates:  

“Employee engagement” is a concept cited frequently among our clients as an issue that leads to attrition in their businesses. Our experts provided a formula for a great employee engagement strategy in just five steps

In recent weeks, there’s been quite a bit of discussion about Ireland’s new Work-Life Balance Bill. HRLegal summed up the need-to-know takeaways from the bill in a short explainer video.

A much-needed bank holiday break served as an opportunity to many tired teams across Ireland last week. Don’t forget to rest your trusty workforce!

For regular topical updates like these, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.