Whether your business is a small or a large multi-national you will almost always come into contact with some kind of workplace dispute. If not addressed straight away the dispute can easily escalate causing a huge range of problems such as absenteeism, low work morale, poor productivity which are emotionally and financially costly to you and your business. In comparison, seeking the help of a mediator early in the process and nipping the problem in the bud can save your dispute from becoming much more serious saving time, stress and money. That is why we highly recommend that employers seek professional assistance with work place disputes as quickly as possible. Below are some examples of workplace disputes and real life solutions reached via mediation. We hope these help to show what we can do for your business.
CASE STUDY 1
Anna and Dominic worked at an X-ray and imaging company which was owned by a larger listed organisation. Anna was a radiographer who reported to Dominic as the practice manager. They had worked together for two years prior to their dispute and had generally gotten along well.
Anna had some issues in the past three months in regards to the practice roster and felt that other employees were being given preference in regards to quieter and easier shifts. In addition, Anna had recommended a family friend to Dominic for a front office receptionist role; she was interviewed but didn’t get the position. Anna then made a formal complaint about Dominic to the head of HR of the holding company which owned the imaging practice and alleged discrimination and that favouritism was taking place.
After an internal workplace investigation was completed into the matter it was found that Dominic had not intentionally shown favouritism.
There was acknowledgement as to why Anna may have viewed things this way. The mediation was called to try and clear the air after the investigation findings as there was residual tension and some office gossip which was affecting morale and productivity.
The mediation session brought Anna and Dominic together to speak directly and discuss the ‘elephant in the room.’
Both Dominic and Anna were able to explain their perspectives and Anna took the opportunity to apologise to Dominic for escalating the matter rather than following the grievance procedures. Dominic also took some responsibility for being slightly autocratic in style and not taking the time to explain how and why he compiled the rosters as he did. Dominic realised that taking the time to listen to his staff would pay dividends and stop small conflicts developing into disputes.
Why it worked:
Both parties came to the mediation and wanted to be there. The common factor was they both valued and enjoyed their jobs and wanted to improve matters. Through listening to the others perspective they gained insight into how misconceptions were formed and each was able to admit some fault in the dispute.
Case Study 2
HSM was approached by the general manager of an event company. They were having issues between an employee and a manager. The manager was in a very senior position and wanted the employee dismissed. The legal advice they had received was rather to attempt mediation so as to avoid any possible legal repercussions. A problem for the organisation was that their policies and procedures were wholly inadequate. They did not have grievance procedures in place so there was a risk that this could also come back to bite them.
We had a pre-mediation session with both parties. Of course we received two totally different versions. From the employee we heard that the manager was a bully. He belittled her in front of the other staff. He constantly criticised her work. He was curt, abrupt and provided no constructive guidance or feedback. She also said that she had not received a clear job description and there was no clear demarcation of roles and she was actually doing more than she was supposed to be doing.
On the other hand, the manager stated that the employee was clearly out of her depth in her role. They thought she was more skilled when they had hired her but it turned out that she was lost in the role. She couldn’t keep up with her work, was constantly falling behind. He said that while he was tough in his managerial role, he didn’t think he was unreasonable.
Why It Worked
The joint mediation brought out a lot of emotion from the employee. She told the manager that she felt he didn’t have a kind word to say to her. She felt she had the skills to do the job but admitted she wasn’t coping in the role as she was doing too much that wasn’t part of the original job. The manager was really mortified to hear he was perceived as a bully. He acknowledged that there might have been confusion with the demarcation of her role and agreed to try soften his style of management. He, of his own accord, apologised to her when he heard how belittled she felt. The mediation had good results in that both parties acknowledged some responsibility for the degeneration of their relationship and both wanted to put the past behind them and do things differently in the future. We also made recommendations to the organisation that they needed to rehaul their policies and procedures and they undertook to do this.