Article: Why does conflict within employees lead to absenteeism

Employee Relations

Why does conflict within employees lead to absenteeism

There are disputes over how revenues should be divided, how the work should be done, and how long and hard people should work.
Why does conflict within employees lead to absenteeism

Employee absences carry a heavy cost for many employers. In fact, 75 percent of HR professionals say employee absences have a large impact on revenue and productivity, according to a study last April by Kronos and the Society for Human Resource Management of 700 of its members. It costs time, money and manpower to deal with, and drains productivity, engagement and moral. Aon Hewitt’s 2014 Health Care Survey discovered that only 36 percent of about 1,200 employers surveyed measure the impact of employee absences on their bottom line. By dealing with the root cause of this conflict, you are tackling the negative knock-on impact of conflict. 

Organizational conflict, or workplace conflict, is a state of discord caused by the actual or perceived opposition of needs, values and interests between people working together. Conflict takes many forms in organizations. There is the inevitable clash between formal authority and power and those individuals and groups affected. There are disputes over how revenues should be divided, how the work should be done, and how long and hard people should work. There are jurisdictional disagreements among individuals, departments, and between unions and management. Apart from this, there are various reasons that lead to an organizational discord like:

Managerial Expectations

It is the job of an employee to meet the expectations of his manager, but if those expectations are misunderstood, conflict can arise. A manager should also encourage her employees to ask questions about their goals, and hold regular meetings to discuss the goals and how best to reach them.

Breakdown in Communication

If a department requires information from another department in order to do its job, and the second department does not respond to the request for information, a conflict can arise. Some interdepartmental disagreements might trigger a nonresponsive attitude that can quickly become an internal conflict. Another way of creating this sort of conflict is by giving a circular response such as an issue being perpetually "under review.”

Misunderstanding the Information

According to mediation expert Robert D. Benjamin, writing on, internal conflict can sometimes arise as the result of a simple misunderstanding. One person may misunderstand information, and that can trigger a series of conflicts. 

Lack of Accountability

Organizational conflict might arise from frustration. If something has gone wrong, and no one is willing to take responsibility for the problem, this lack of accountability can start to permeate throughout the entire company until the issue is resolved. 

The effects of conflict within an organisation can be positive or negative like mental health concerns, decrease  productivity, attrition, absenteeism, etc. 

How conflict resolution and mediation can decrease workplace absence 

As explained above, Conflict is a huge contributor to workplace absence and stress. If an organisation can develop a culture of conflict resolution, then conflict will be nipped in the bud, rather than left to fester and grow, causing the stress that may lead to absenteeism. Organisations need to establish a process which allows individuals in conflict to find an informal resolution to their issues quickly and effectively. If you are able to support an individual in conflict at the outset, you might prevent a complete breakdown in workplace relationships and the attendant stress that causes. To achieve this, there are two key steps an organisation can take. The first is to institute a culture and strategy of conflict resolution. This could take the form of better line manager training in how to have those tricky conversations, listening techniques for employees or even training in communication models to diffuse conflict. The culture of an organisation needs to promote openness, dialogue, honesty and integrity. 

The second step is to ensure that there are strategies in place to deal with existing conflict. Mediation is a technique that can be a powerful intervention with a high success rate. It is a confidential, voluntary and informal process that allows employees in conflict to have open and honest conversations with each other. It allows them to clarify the issues that so often lead to communication breakdowns and misunderstandings. Unlike a formal process , mediation focuses on re-establishing a working relationship without the need of punishment or finding a victim or perpetrator. Mediation offers a safe environment in which to have a difficult conversation which focuses on resolving issues in a way that is mutually acceptable to the parties. Because the mediator does not thrust a solution upon the parties, the outcome is owned by the parties which means that they are empowered through the process and more likely to stick to their resolution.

Because the very nature of mediation is consensual, the results are sustainable and far reaching. If organisations embrace mediation as a technique to deal with workplace conflict, they can actively and effectively decrease their absenteeism levels.

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Topics: Employee Relations

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