Headlines: October 23rd, 2008

There is more conflict in the public sector workplace than there is in the private sector where conflict is better managed. These findings come from a new report ‘Fight, Flight or Face It’ published by business psychology firm OPP in association with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Over a third of public sector employees have to deal with conflict frequently or always, compared with only 23 per cent in the private sector. The research also found that public sector workers were more likely to see poor leadership from the top and a lack of resources as major causes of workplace conflict.

Responses to the survey revealed that some 27 per cent of public sector managers said they did not manage conflict very well. This compares with 23 per cent of overall responses.

Public sector managers receive higher levels of training than their private sector counterparts. 75 per cent of senior leaders have had conflict management training, compared to 67 per cent for the private sector. Similarly, 81 per cent of line managers have had relevant training, compared to 73 per cent on average.

The survey also revealed that 11 per cent of recent conflicts in the public sector took more than ten days to resolve, compared with only 6 per cent in the private sector that took as long.

Linda Holbeche, director of research and policy at the CIPD, thinks that conflict management should be an integral part of leadership and management training: “Conflict is an inevitable part of the workplace and can be very damaging and costly if not managed properly. Managers must be able to identify the early signs of conflict and intervene and diffuse situations before they escalate if teams are to work productively and harmoniously. Managers must also manage under-performance firmly and fairly, as well as pick-up on banter when it starts to become bullying or when workloads become excessive.”