I went on a conflict management workshop this month. Which you might think is a bit strange, considering that a lot of my business comes from when conflict doesn’t get resolved. But believe me, I would have enough to do without sorting out playground fights!
That became clear when Marc went through the amount of time and money usually involved in dealing with a grievance/tribunal claim. Adjusting for small businesses, you are talking about at least £4000 worth of time, energy and hassle of managers, advisors and possibly lawyers to get it resolved. Not to mention the lack of work being done by those who are aggrieved!
I was recently involved at the end stage of resolving a “situation”. There had already been lots of “informal chats” with the two ladies in question, trying to resolve the situation (ex-girlfriend of team leader working in the same team with current girlfriend! Ex was making life difficult for the current girlfriend in so many ways). The informal chats (and there had been many) had not resolved the issue. The situation was not at all helped by the team leader’s manager bad-mouthing the ex-girlfriend for not “getting over it”. The Directors had to get involved when the current girlfriend raised an official grievance, which was their expensive time, and as a consequence of that meeting, we had to do a disciplinary with the ex-girlfriend and give her a written warning. Thankfully that was the end of it, but it took up 3 hours of my time, let alone the time of the directors, line manager, team leader and the two ladies!!!
Mediation costs a fraction of that, with a lot less hassle and much happier employees at the end. As part of the course, we did role play and in the first one I was the manager trying to bring the two antagonists together. I was good at rapport building, reflecting and rephrasing, then I made the mistake of “solving it” before all the issues had come out. Caught myself as I did it, but it was difficult to keep engaged: they had a problem with too much work as one of the employees was ill. Easy, just hire a temp. Hmmm, but the other employee was still upset that he had to carry the can. The solution was clear: get a trained mediator in with the patience to keep asking questions and listening to gripes, gripes that I or you may have already heard hundreds of times and no longer take seriously.
I also found out about my conflict management style. I start off collaborative and green, but if we aren’t getting anywhere, then I get “stormy” although I do stay collaborative and compromising, just maybe with more swear words. I’ve known that for a while: I’m green, green, green, RED! Working on giving some amber indications in future before I explode!
If you have a situation that you’ve been hoping will “blow over” then get in touch with Marc Reid who ran the workshop on 0118 311 1325, firstname.lastname@example.org . Doing nothing is not going to make it go away by itself!
“There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction” .John F. Kennedy