As workplaces become more diverse, with advances in technology, shifts in methods of work and changes in organizational structures, the type of conflict being experienced in the workplace is also changing. Increasingly, organizations are being faced with interpersonal and relationship-based conflict caused by the breakdown of trust, communication and understanding between management and workers, and/or between workers themselves. Although differences in cultural, ethnic and demographic background do not of themselves cause conflict, the way in which organizations, their employees and employees' representatives manage and express these differences, can contribute significantly to the development of interpersonal and relationship-based conflict in the workplace. Not only does this type of conflict have a significant impact on the well-being of the individuals involved, it often affects other members of the team or department who directly or indirectly become drawn into the conflictual situation. In addition to the individual and team impact, such conflict carries the risk of negatively affecting productivity and the profitability of the enterprise. Research shows that ineffective conflict handling costs organizations millions of euros each year. If interpersonal conflict is not effectively managed, the sustainability of the business and the jobs of its employees may be threatened. Some workplace conflict may be appropriately addressed not only through consensus-based processes such as negotiation, but also by parties exercising their power or engaging a third party adjudicator. However, in the case of interpersonal and relationship-based conflict, where one is dealing not only with "facts", but also with personal perceptions and interpretations, negotiation and joint problem-solving processes are the most appropriate and effective way of addressing the situation. This is because such processes enable parties to focus on their (unmet) needs and interests, and work towards outcomes that address the underlying causes of the conflict and meet the needs of both parties. Given the complex nature of such conflict, organizations/enterprises and their members are being called upon to manage conflict with greater self-awareness, sensitivity and skill. They need to be much more alert to potential conflict and its development, and, very importantly, conflict managers need to be sufficiently skilled to address conflict proactively, so as to minimize the risk of the conflict escalating. More skilled and effective intervention can make a considerable difference to the productivity of organizations and the morale and commitment of their members.
Line managers (that is any persons who have responsibility for managing others), human resources managers and officers, workers' representatives, staff of labour dispute agencies, staff of ministries of labour involved in dispute prevention and resolution, UN Staff and ombudspersons, industrial relations experts and practitioners