• Joanne Meneghetti

What is the fallout?

Most people, when asked will say, ‘I hate conflict’ or something of that nature. All that being what it is, doesn’t change the fact that when it occurs it’s yours to fix.

The problem is most workplaces are ill-equipped to deal with conflict. Most workplaces lack the skills and awareness required to effectively resolve conflict to the point where both parties feel they have been heard and their concerns have been met or to some extent recognised and acknowledged.

Remember, many people who feel they have been wronged are simply seeking acknowledgment and an apology. In fact, it’s widely known the emotional reasons for why someone who seeks compensation is often derived from the feeling they have been wronged and poor management of the conflict. This form of compensation becomes their justice and is driven by emotion.

I believe the litigious actions we are seeing today can be significantly reduced if management simply takes ownership of the problem and seeks to rectify the problem. Add an apology to it and you’d likely never see the inside of a courthouse again.

People who have been emotionally harmed or suffered psychological trauma at work need to be listened to, they need to feel they have a voice, and those simple words, ‘I’m sorry’ will go a long way towards resolving things.

We know organisations shy away from apologies and acknowledgment as a course of action for fear of litigation, the irony of which leads to litigation anyway. So, by virtue of failing to recognise or acknowledge the aggrieved person at the trigger phase, we now find ourselves dealing with an escalation of a conflict.

We can safely say avoidance of dealing with the trigger is simply an avoidance of dealing with conflict. So, we need to get better at dealing with conflict, accepting that conflict happens, not shying away from it, and most importantly getting some skills around mediating when conflict occurs.

If you lack the skills to face conflict and mediate conflict, now is the time to get yourself upskilled in this space. It’s no longer acceptable to simply bury your head in the sand hoping the problem might run out of fuel and burn itself out if you avoid it long enough.

With increasing research and awareness around mental health, bullying, conflict management, and employee well-being the question arises, ‘why is it that so many managers and supervisors lack the skills required to act swiftly and accordingly. To rely on a lack of skills and training as an excuse to managing conflict borders on negligence and it would be difficult to argue ignorance of the problems in the current climate, we find ourselves in.

The gap in management capability to successfully manage conflict and mediate can be alleviated to some extent by the provision of external support by qualified personnel being made available on-call to facilitate and mediate conflict resolution as a backstop. This goes part way to offering solutions yet falls short of addressing problems at the trigger point.

The absence of qualified and confident managers and supervisors who can identify and address low-level problems is a critical gap. A gap that can be filled with training and awareness, an important component in creating a workplace with harmony and connection.

So, what is the fallout?

Can we agree now that failing to act early and failing to manage low-level issues at the trigger phase will lead to escalation? A costly and time-consuming process that will end less favourably for someone.

Can we agree that even if you as the manager have ‘a win’ and the victim ends up resigning, you still haven’t really had ‘a win’; in fact, quite the opposite has occurred. Now you are faced with a recruiting process and a training process that will cost time and money.

This in turn is impacting production, impacting team morale, impacting the harmony and balance of your workplace. Maybe you did have ‘a win’, that’s great, chalk one up for management. Time for the honest reflection again. Did you really win?

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