Common Sense Services

Conflict - Pick the right tool for the job

This week is National Mediation Awareness Week so I thought I would do my bit to raise awareness.

In many organisations inter-personal conflict, whether between colleagues or between line manager and team member, just burbles along. Sometimes it is a bit tenser or noisier than others, sometimes you’d hardly know it was there at all.  People may say “They don’t see eye to eye”, “They have a personality clash.” Or “Frank and John just don’t get on.”

We tend not to take an organisational interest in it unless or until it presents a serious blockage to productivity or progress (it will already have been impeding both for some time but that’s another blog) or until it results in an emotional scene with one or both sides demanding “Something must be done about them!”

So, we rummage in haste in our HR toolbox and we find…
The mallet of the Grievance process and the pick-axe of the Disciplinary!

Don’t get me wrong, both these tools have their place. We need them from time to time, but we can’t use them without causing lasting damage. Both processes are adversarial in nature pitting people against one another. Both processes require parties to provide “evidence” to prove their righteousness. Both processes irretrievably damage people’s relationships with each other and with the organisation.

Oh – and they are expensive too – in management time, in staff time and in the inevitable distraction they cause from the purpose of the organisation.

Mediation typically takes a day. It allows the individuals to explore their issues together and to find their own solutions. It preserves and even strengthens relationships. It tends towards building resilience not tearing stuff down in an effort to be proved right. It meets people’s needs for recognition, understanding, dignity. It can support the retention of vital staff members. It skills people up to avoid a repetition of the conflict.

And it is cheaper than a grievance process!

So, during Mediation Awareness Week, I encourage you to talk to a mediator, find out a bit more about mediation and stick it in your HR toolbox with a big label on it saying

“Mediation. Try this first”