The CIPD Good Work Index 2024 reveals that employees experiencing workplace conflict report lower job satisfaction and poorer mental and physical health.

According to the report, a quarter (25%) of UK employees—an estimated eight million people—encountered workplace conflict in the past year. The most common forms of conflict reported were being undermined or humiliated (48%), shouted at or involved in heated arguments (35%), subjected to verbal abuse or insult (34%), and experiencing discriminatory behaviour (20%).

Call for Better Management Practices

In response to these findings, the CIPD is urging employers to focus on improving line management training and addressing the root causes of workplace conflict, such as poor management practices and excessive workloads. Good quality people management is essential for creating supportive and inclusive work environments where conflict is minimised or effectively resolved.

The CIPD Good Work Index, which surveys over 5,000 UK workers annually, provides a comprehensive benchmark of job quality in the UK, covering various aspects including the impact of work on health and wellbeing. The latest survey found that only 54% of those who reported conflict were satisfied with their jobs, compared to 77% of those who did not experience any conflict. Employees who experienced conflict were also twice as likely to consider leaving their job within the next 12 months (33%) compared to those who did not report conflict (16%).

Confidence in Leadership and Management

The survey highlighted that employees who experienced conflict had lower confidence in senior leaders, less trust in their integrity, and lower perceptions of managers’ ability to enable employee voice. These findings underline the importance of early intervention to address workplace conflict.

Jake Young, senior adviser for employee experience, OD, and L&D at the CIPD, stated: “While a healthy level of discussion and debate in a workplace can be valuable, our survey suggests that workplace conflict is often much more than this, harming the job satisfaction and wellbeing of far too many.”

Young emphasised the need for prioritising line management training to foster positive relationships and address conflict early. He also highlighted the importance of identifying and addressing the underlying causes of conflict, such as excessive workloads and pressure.

Impact of Conflict on Health and Wellbeing

According to the CIPD Good Work Index, employees who experienced workplace conflict in the past 12 months reported significantly higher levels of exhaustion and pressure. Specifically, 42% of these employees said they always or often felt exhausted, compared to 18% of those who reported no conflict. Similarly, 37% said they always or often felt under pressure, compared to 15% of those who did not experience conflict.

Additionally, only 28% of those who experienced conflict said their work had a positive impact on their mental health, compared to 43% of those who did not experience conflict. When it came to physical health, 25% of those who experienced conflict reported a positive impact, compared to 32% of those who did not.

Common Responses to Conflict

The survey found that the most common response to conflict among employees was to “let it go” (47%). Other responses included discussing the issue with a manager or HR (29%), having informal discussions with someone outside work, such as family or friends (21%), or with the person involved (17%). Very few employees (1%) took their case to an employment tribunal.

Young continued: “Our findings show that when conflict does happen, a lot of it is simply let go, which may suggest a lack of confidence in senior staff to address these issues constructively. And so the cycle of conflict stands to continue. Managers and senior leaders should encourage open and supportive work environments, where employees feel they have a voice and line managers feel empowered to have difficult conversations through effective training.”