HR · 5 June 2017

Gossip, rumours and cliques: UK employees reveal the root of office conflicts

Office conflicts
Workers cited unfair workloads and disparity over hours as the biggest causes of office conflicts

Friendship cliques and tensions over workplace gossip have been outed among the most common causes of office conflicts in Britain, according to a new study.

In a survey of over 1,000 full and part-time employees, by Cascade HR, gossip and rumours was cited by 31 per cent as the primary reason for conflict at work – some way ahead of salary disputes between colleagues and promotions and progression, at 20 per cent and 21 per cent respectively.

However, with 32 per cent, a sense of injustice over workloads and disparity in working hours was the greatest contributor to office conflicts.

The findings uncovered a surprising emphasis on personal relationships and team dynamics, rather than frustrations around career progression and salaries.

Unfair distribution of training and development opportunities was only cited by 18 per cent of respondents, while friendship groups and cliques were a major cause of office conflicts for over a quarter of workers.

Commenting on the findings, Oliver Shaw, CEO at Cascade HR, said the study revealed a significant perception of unfair treatment within UK workplaces.

“What is clear from these results is that a significant number of conflicts at work are started by colleagues feeling slighted in favour of other people.

“However, it’s concerning to see the number of workers who don’t feel their employer handles workplace conflict in an appropriate way,” he said.

The top ten office conflicts cited by UK employees

  1. Unfair workloads and disparity over work hours – 32 per cent
  2. Friendship groups and cliques – 27 per cent
  3. Gossip and rumours – 31 per cent
  4. Preferential treatment for some staff – 23 per cent
  5. Negative attitudes towards the company – 22 per cent
  6. Salary and wage disputes – 20 per cent
  7. Promotions and progression – 21 per cent
  8. Staff arrivals and departures – 19 per cent
  9. Unfair distribution of  training and development opportunities – 18 per cent
  10. Extra breaks for smokers – 15 per cent

When it came to resolving office conflicts, over half of employees admitted to trying to resolve issues themselves. Less than half believed their company had a “clear” policy for addressing unacceptable behaviour in the workplace.

Handing some advice to smaller employers, Shaw stressed the importance of bringing about a culture of transparency through direct engagement between bosses and staff.

He added: “Opening up channels of communication between staff and management to explain why things are happening is a key way of dealing with the frustrations surrounding these issues. Employers should be seen to be taking conflict between members of staff seriously.”

Employees name monotonous daily tasks as greatest cause of workplace boredom

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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