HR leaders continue to be overwhelmed with the work that comes from trying to manage workplace conflict and complaints. A recent study revealed that 98% of HR leaders are charged with handling conflict at work and in business environments – yet it is still poorly handled in many organisations.
Christina Turner, a 30-year veteran of the HR profession, said the most common issues of conflict manifest themselves in complaints of bullying, which is most commonly approached through a reactive investigative process of analysing evidence.
While workplace investigations do have their place – indeed Turner said there are times when it is not only appropriate but completely necessary to investigate serious complaints in this manner – she added that at the end of an investigation, the conflict is often still unresolved and is sometimes even worse after the process.
She added that while many organisations do have grievance policies in place, not enough have multiple options or alternatives for employees to resolve conflicts and are more likely to run with an investigation or mediation to manage conflict.
“Organisations need to look at an integrated conflict management system, so there are multiple options and entry points so employees can choose and have control,” she said.
Approaching the situation in an informal or low key manner can help prevent the conflict from escalating, Turner added.
One of the main problems managers face is poor communication. Often managers feel they don’t have the skills to give someone feedback or avoid the issue completely, causing the employee to feel ignored and isolated.
“We need HR practitioners to challenge line managers in terms of taking a proactive approach to conflict rather than waiting for it to blow up,” Turner said.
After 20 years of conducting over 400 workplace investigations, Turner has seen that conflict can in fact be turned into a positive.
“Good things do come from conflict situations; it’s often where we get our learning,” she said. “I’m not sure though that we spend a lot of time capturing and analysing data around conflict in organisations, [and] I’m not sure we do appropriate debriefings after investigations or mediations.”
Christina Turner will be speaking about how to be proactive in conflict management at the Australian Institute of Management EXPO in Canberra, from Tuesday 21 February through to Thursday 23 February.
For more information, visit: http://www.aim-nsw-act.com.au/
- Jessica Cooper