Has your business seen an increase in grievances?

HR expert Les Potton considers mediation as an effective way of dealing with conflict

Les PottonCONCILIATION service ACAS announced changes to its code of practice this year. It recommended early informal resolution of conflict.

So, are we seeing a reduction in the amount of formal grievances? The economic climate might be making workers feel less happy, with reduced job security and the threat of redundancies, but it may also make them reluctant to rock the boat and air grievances.

What seems to be the case though, is that an early informal discussion is likely to prove more successful in resolving conflict, rather than relying on formal processes and written complaints. It is very easy for an organisation to get completely hamstrung when a grievance culture develops, with every grumble committed to paper and subject to formal procedures. Additionally if not handled sensitively those grumbles can develop into costly tribunal claims, where discrimination compensation is uncapped.

Mediation seems to be one answer. People Management magazine has reported that East Lancashire NHS Primary Care Trust have introduced a mediation programme, that has reduced formal grievances by 60% in its first year.

Mediation can come in various guises, however a simple and effective approach is for an impartial facilitator, to talk individually and in private with those involved in the conflict. The facilitator can then establish the behaviour that is occurring, how it is being perceived and often what personal values are driving that behaviour.

Following these individual discussions, with the employees’ consent, a joint meeting can be convened with the facilitator, with a view to discussing the behaviour, perceptions and reasons for both, resulting in an agreed action plan. The process should give the employees involved a better understanding of why the conflict has arisen and therefore a better chance of resolving it.

Les Potton Chartered FCIPD ACII is a managing consultant at Target HR