Published on March 29, 2012 by Mick Sheils OAM
Employee conflict can be very disruptive to an organisation. If not managed appropriately it can end up being very costly, both in monetary and emotional terms.
Conflict between individuals in a workplace is not an easy matter for most managers to deal with. It distracts them from dealing with the core responsibilities of the organisation and in many cases can be unnerving to even the strongest of managers. Studies have shown that up to 30% of a manager’s time can be spent dealing with such matters.
Intervention in such matters at an early stage is vital if an effective and lasting resolution is to be achieved. However in many instances managers tend to hope that the conflict will resolve itself thus not requiring their intervention.
However managers can avoid all the unpleasantness of dealing with such matters by engaging an independent accredited mediator with expertise in resolving workplace conflict. This should occur as soon as it becomes clear that the conflict exists. In most cases the conflict is between two individuals but unless dealt with promptly can spread to other members of staff with all the disabling affects such behaviour has on the organisation.
It is important for Managers to be aware of the role of the mediator in dealing with such disputation. Practice standards apply to accredited mediators and are set out in the Australian National Mediator Standards.
The Practice Standards describe the purpose of mediation as being a process to maximise the participants’ decision making. Other important points set out in the standards are:
- The mediation process may:
(a) assist the participants to define and clarify the issues under consideration;
(b) assist participants to communicate and exchange relevant information;
(c) invite the clarification of issues and disputes to increase the range of options;
(d) provide opportunities for understanding;
(e) facilitate an awareness of mutual and individual interests;
(f) help the participants generate and evaluate various options; and
(g) promote a focus on the interests and needs of those who may be subject to, or affected by, the situation and proposed options.
- Mediators do not advise upon, evaluate or determine disputes. They assist in managing the process of dispute and conflict resolution whereby the participants agree upon the outcomes, when appropriate. Mediation is essentially a process that maximises the self determination of the participants. The principle of self determination requires that mediation processes be non-directive as to content.
As soon as the manager becomes aware that conflict exists, the persons involved should be informed that he/she is aware of the conflict and that the organisation will be engaging an independent workplace mediator to assist the parties in resolving the conflict. An outline of the issues should be provided to the mediator by the parties.
It is preferable that the mediation be conducted away from the premises in which the parties work. This adds to the independence of the process and provides privacy for the parties.
There is no set procedure for the conduct of the mediation and not all mediators conduct their mediations in the same manner. However it is important that the parties know from the start how the mediator proposes to conduct the mediation and to obtain the approval of the parties. It is also important for the mediator to obtain the confidence of the parties before commencing the mediation. A friendly chat over a cup of tea or coffee is always a good start and can greatly assist in gaining their confidence and a strong indication that the mediator is truly independent. If at the conclusion of the mediation a resolution has been able to be achieved, the terms of such agreement should be committed to writing and signed by the parties to the mediation.
Workplace Solutions at Carroll and O’Dea is able to provide workplace mediation services through its accredited mediator Mr Mick Sheils, OAM who received recognition for his work in industrial relations in the most recent Order of Australia Honours List. Mr Sheils is a skilled mediator with many years experience in resolving workplace disputation. He is available at short notice and can be contacted direct on 02 8226-7338 or by contacting Peter Punch on 02 9291-7177.