Verbal abuse, physical attacks and harassment in the workplace can be damaging. Read our guide to effective conflict management techniques.
Why Conflict Management Training Is Important
Managing workplace conflict and violence shouldn't be left to chance by employees. Read our expert guide on conflict management training.
Why Conflict Management Training Is Important
Workplaces should be safe environments, and no one should have to deal with bullying, harassment or violence. But unfortunately, many people face these risks while doing their job. In 2019/20, there were 688,000 incidents of workplace violence in England and Wales, with 307,000 adults experiencing violence at work.
Employers are legally required to put measure in place to protect employees from conflict and workplace violence. Employers must train employees in how to recognise, prevent and report incidents so they know how to protect themselves. Conflict management training plays a vital role in helping control the risk of violence in the workplace.
Conflict can occur in any workplace, but workers in sectors such as hospitality and retail, which deal directly with members of the public, are particularly at risk.
As well as the physical and mental impact on the employees affected, conflict and violence can result in low employee morale, increased employee absenteeism, high insurance costs and expensive compensation payments. In extreme cases, workplace conflict can lead to employees being seriously harmed or killed. Employers shouldn’t leave conflict management in the workplace to chance.
Employees most at risk of violence in the workplace
The Health and Safety Executive defines violence to employees at work as “any incident in which an employee is abused, threatened or assaulted by a member of the public in circumstances arising out of the course of his/her employment”.
Conflict management training can help identify employees at risk of violence and who need safe systems of work and training, such as:
- Public-facing employees – People working in shops, bars, restaurants, taxis and hospitals often have to deal with complaints from angry customers, leading to verbal and physical attacks on employees. The unpredictable nature of shoplifters can cause problems, as can dealing with intoxicated customers or those who have used illegal drugs. Racial discrimination can also occur, and attacks may involve weapons.
- Lone workers – A study by the Health and Safety Executive found lone workers face an increased risk of violence “because there were generally either fewer people around and a greater number of ‘unsavoury characters’ or people under the influence of alcohol or drugs” may be around. Employees who work alone should use developed safe systems of work, such as cash handling systems, security guards, ‘buddy systems’ or technology that can raise the alarm or record events.
- Call centre employees – Dealing with customers by telephone often means employees have to deal with aggression. Customer service or sales operatives can experience high levels of verbal abuse from people angry about the service they have experienced or not wanting to receive a sales call.
Physical attacks can cause serious injuries, and verbal abuse can seriously impact employees’ mental well-being. They can suffer distress, anxiety and stress-related illnesses.
Why you need conflict management training
Under various regulations, employers are legally required to protect their employees from conflict and violence. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 places a duty on employers to ensure employees' health, safety, and welfare. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 means that employers must assess the risks employees face in the workplace, including reasonably foreseeable risks such as violence and aggression. They must then put measures in place to prevent or control those risks.
Employers must provide information and conflict management training to employees on managing workplace risks, including dealing with conflict they might face while doing their job and the arrangements and safe systems of work to be used.
Managers and team leaders should be aware of managing conflict among the employees they are responsible for. Employees who have direct contact with customers should know how to handle difficult situations and report incidents that can then be investigated.
When dealing with an incident at work, employees need to think on their feet, so a good conflict management course can provide them with easy-to-remember strategies to identify and deal with potential violence and harassment in the workplace. Employees need to recognise the signs and causes of anger and aggression and understand how good communications skills are essential for reducing the risks of physical attacks and verbal abuse.
Under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR), employers must report certain accidents and incidents to their enforcing authority. By law, organisations must also keep an accident book if they have more than ten employees and should have a way of recording accidents and incidents even if there are low numbers. Conflict management training can emphasise to employees the importance of reporting violence, aggression, harassment and bullying and how it is done in the organisation.
Training can also remind employees of the need for effective customer care, preventing conflict from happening. By understanding the common causes and ways of preventing a situation from escalating, being polite, listening to what might be being said, keeping calm and helpful, the risk of aggression and violence can be reduced.
Read more about conflict management and workplace violence.
What to look for in a conflict management training company
Given the importance of conflict management and the risks to employees, you must select a training provider that delivers accredited training. Examine whether the course will provide your employees with the level of knowledge that they need to know for dealing with conflict in their specific job. Make sure all requirements outlined in appropriate regulations are covered.
One of the key considerations for selecting training is whether a conflict management course is accredited by well-respected organisations. The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), for example, is the Chartered body for safety and health professionals with 44,000 members in 99 countries.
Another useful accreditation to look out for is CPD Certification which benefits employees’ continuous professional development.
Organisations in the sectors most at risk of conflict often have employees in multiple locations and with various working hours, so using e-learning to deliver training has many advantages, including reducing the costs of training and improved compliance for employers.
Look out for online courses that provide access to a learning management system such as SHINE from Praxis42, which removes the chore of filing and keeping track of paper certificates. Instead, all training records can be viewed and managed on one system with training certificates quickly printed as proof of compliance for audits or visits from enforcing agencies.
Conflict Management Training Infographic
Looking for useful, shareable advice on managing workplace conflict? Our free conflict management infographic is a handy guide that you can download and share.