Cindy Gunn, Group Head of People at Gi Group

East Midlands HR Expert Gives Top Tips on Boomers vs Gen Z Workplace Conflicts

In a recent report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, findings show that a quarter of UK employees - an estimated 8 million people - have experienced workplace conflict in the past year. Of those surveyed, 48% of people faced humiliation at work, 35% experienced a heated argument, 34% experienced verbal abuse and 20% faced discrimination.

Cindy Gunn, Group Head of People at Gi Group, which has branches across the East Midlands, and is one of the UK’s leading HR and recruitment specialists, comments: “It is no surprise that there is a correlation between workplace conflict and job satisfaction, because for employees to deliver their best work they must feel supported and heard within the workplace. The past few years have posed economic, cultural and growth challenges for almost all businesses, so as we look to the future, employees and employers must recognise the importance of workplace wellbeing as an integral part of sustained success.

“The recent CIPD report - which shows how big an issue workplace conflict is becoming – is reflective of conversations we are having with customers and candidates alike and equally is a key focus within our own business.”

Cindy explains that the challenges arising in workplaces that can lead to conflict are sometimes identifiable during the hiring process, and pinpointing these signals is a core skill of Gi Group consultants.

“As we analyse the impact of workplace conflict, it is worth taking a step back to look at the original hiring process,” continues Cindy. “For there to be workplace conflict, there must be some sort of personality or workstyle clash. When forming or expanding your team it is vital you pick individuals that align with your company values and ethics to provide a more harmonious environment.

“It is important that once you find the right employee, you nurture and support their growth and progression within your business, every step of their career journey. Here at Gi Group, we’re focused on training and development to ensure our team remain at the top of their game. Like any role, there is always room for improvement and progression. As recruiters, off-the-shelf company perks don’t always work for us which is why we tailor our company offering to suit our team. For example, we provide IVF leave, menopause support, men’s mental health seminars, charity volunteer opportunities and early salary access which are all important offerings for our people.”

The CIPD has also reported that it is twice as common for employees who experience conflict to say they are likely to leave their job in the next 12 months (33%) compared to those who didn’t report conflict (16%).

Cindy adds: “Conflict can occur within any workplace, but it is how this conflict is resolved that really matters. Employees want to be heard and if a two-way communication culture isn’t established, things can escalate quickly. Offering a safe place for employees to share their honest feelings is a great way of negating this - for example, this could be in the form of a survey or regular and protected 1-2-1 sessions with a senior member of the team.

“If your work permits it, encouraging collaboration while outlining clear expectations and boundaries can really help to support employees deliver their best work. Humans are social beings, and so regular opportunity for meaningful work-related conversation can have a huge impact on how an employee feels about their job and their prospects. Focus on how you can fix situations, not who you can blame. Instilling strong core company values and expectations early on creates a united workforce which will ultimately reduce conflict.”

Cindy added that a continuous approach to training and coaching always brings benefits, no matter the size of the team or the type of business. She said: “Offering bespoke learning and development opportunities is a great way to support your team’s progression and minimise workplace frustration. Qualifications, training courses or even internal training sessions are all great ways of achieving this, so long as they are consistently scheduled and not treated as a box ticking exercise. Providing a harmonious workplace isn’t about showstopping changes, it is about implementing and maintaining supportive steps to fulfil the needs and expectations of your team.

“Here at Gi Group, we encourage open communication on difficult topics, such as mental health, to ensure our team knows we are here if they need a little extra support. We have regular workshops across the business with key members of the team, including Board members and senior leaders, discussing their personal challenges, or just offering a Q&A session to get the conversation started. Great leaders are those who put their teams’ development and successes at the centre of their growth plans, knowing that this is a surefire way to avoid and ultimately erase regular conflict in the workplace.”

Gi Group, one of the UK’s leading HR and recruitment specialists, with consultants working from 85 locations across the UK and serving more than 1500 clients.

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