The news of Boris Johnson standing down as the leader of the Conservative Party, amid mass resignations from cabinet members, has dominated headlines in the UK and across the globe. Putting politics aside, this week has shown how conflict at work, if not properly dealt with, can cause serious harm, not just to the organisation, but for those who work there too.
This week we have seen how conflict can escalate very quickly, can lead to mass resignations, and cause serious harm and damage to an organisation through social media.
So what can employers learn from this fast moving week in Westminster? Well, the key themes that this article explores include collective grievances, loss of confidence in an individual’s ability to do their role, dealing with mass resignations and the potential of retracting a resignation when circumstances change.
How do you deal with collective grievances?
If you are dealing with collective grievances, it is likely the issues at heart have not been adequately dealt with, or not dealt with early enough or even not at all.
Any workplace grievance, individual or collective, should be dealt with as soon as possible so that the issue can be nipped in the bud, preventing escalation. Concerns at work can soon snowball and become out of hand, causing unrest amongst other employees, but also take a significant amount of management time in responding.
Ideally, we recommend dealing with workplace concerns informally through effective communication, if possible. Although there are occasions whereby the informal approach is not appropriate.
There may be occasions when you need to move straight to the formal process. Following your organisation’s grievance policy will be key because a failure to do so, can lead to an uplift in award by up to 25%, for the employee at employment tribunal.
When there is a collective group of individuals who are aggrieved, whilst there may not be any statutory provision relating to collective grievances, nor does the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance apply in these situations, business must take them seriously to ensure good employee relations, as well of course, mitigating risk from tribunal claims.
Acas advises that in this situation, then collective grievances should be dealt with in line with the organisation’s own collective grievance process, just as any other matter would be dealt with under this process. It is worth reviewing your own organisation’s policy to see whether collective grievances are addressed in it.
Loss of trust and confidence
In every contract of employment there is an implied term of trust and confidence. It is at the heart of the contract and requires both employer and employee not to conduct themselves without reasonable and proper cause in a manner that seriously damages the relationship between both parties.
Employers typically refer to it in conduct matters, the circumstances of which are potential gross misconduct in nature.
Not all acts of potential gross misconduct equal a loss in trust and confidence, but the issue must be sufficiently bad that it would destroy or seriously damage the relationship. If it is founded following a disciplinary process it may be a repudiation of the employment contract.
Equally, if it is founded to be an act by the employer for having breached the trust and confidence of the employment contract with an employee, it can entitle the employee to resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal.
Dealing with mass resignations
Not only does a failure to deal with conflict adequately or even at all, lead to grievances, but it can also lead to resignations. Resignations bring disruption to a business and when the resignation is from a key role within the business, then the resignation can expose the business to organisational risk.
It can also lead to employment tribunal claims, where the reason for the resignation is in connection with the workplace.
Any resignation will impact on the team, and ultimately, the running of the department leading to an overall impact on the business. It takes management time and effort in processing the resignation, as well as taking time to recruit.
At this moment, we know recruitment is a big challenge for employers and can take many months to find the right person for the role. There are also costs associated with processing a leaver and recruiting a replacement, and when someone joins, due to the time it takes to onboard, as well as there being an element of lost productivity whilst the new recruit is getting up to speed.
A good way to reduce staff turnover is using exit interviews. These are a great tool to gauge feedback from leavers to understand more about their reasons for leaving so that you can make any necessary changes to prevent future leavers.
Can an employee retract their resignation?
Sometimes an employee resigns, but later regrets it. It could be because the issue that led them to resigning has been resolved, or it could simply be a change in their personal circumstances that has led to them revisit their plans.
What is the legal position? Well, an employee can certainly ask to retract their resignation, but there is no legal obligation on the employer to accept the request.
Of course, given the current recruitment climate, and the challenges employers are facing with filling vacancies, the offer by the employee to retract their resignation may be welcoming, however, there is no requirement to accept the employee’s request.
The role of social media
In recent years, we have seen how social media has grown both from a personal and professional usage point of view. If managed correctly, social media can bring many benefits to an organisation, but it does also have its negative points.
When there is a disengaged workforce, or a working environment consisting of conflict, businesses run the risk of employees including ex-employees sharing their opinions and views about those workplace issues publicly.
This has a direct impact on the business, not only from a reputation perspective, but it can also hamper an organisation’s ability to attract candidates. There are ways in which an organisation can mitigate against this through having the right employment policies in place, but all organisations should consider how social media can bring negative attention and consider ways in which to mitigate against.
How can we help?
If you would like HR support either in helping your business to deal with any workplace conflict or grievances, would like to consider setting up exit interviews, or need any policies to help you to manage social media in a positive way; then do get in touch and we can help support you. Contact HR Solutions on 0844 324 5840.
We offer a variety of training courses to equip businesses with the skills to handle any situation. Given the nature of this article, why not take a look at our ‘Managing Conflict at Work‘ course which is now available to book online.