At Worklogic we enjoy working with our clients to help them resolve a variety of workplace issues. This sort of HR “trouble shooting” often raises some interesting and bespoke challenges that might be of interest to others.
So in 2015 we have decided to share some of these queries (the names and identities of those involved have of course been anonymised). If you have a conundrum that you are finding challenging, we invite you to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I find that though employees are in at work and behind their desk they are not often productive. A lot of time is spent talking or on social media or other distractions. Some don’t manage their time well and could improve on this. Obviously I don’t want employees to believe that we think they are lazy but it’s just that they are not always switched ‘on’. This can be hard for a Manager to identify and deal with. What advice can you give me on how to broach it in the workplace?
– – –
Dear HR Manager
Modern life is full of distractions. Many of the clients we speak to are challenged by “presenteeism” (staff who are present but not engaged).
It can be hard to find the right road into this topic but one practical way can be to start by examining your Organisation’s values and take the discussion (or training) from there.
Explore what it means to be responsible or accountable as a team member and focus on “respect for others”, “respect for the work” and “getting things done”. This can then segue into a discussion about personal motivation and time management.
Ask employees what personal challenges they face in maintaining motivation and focus and work out together how these issues can be addressed.
Set some short term goals and check in regularly to see how everyone is going. Don’t forget that downtime and some social interaction is essential to a healthy workplace culture – it’s all about balance – how can we do these things and still get the job done effectively?
Yours in productivity, The Worklogicians
MEDIATION – SOME LEARNINGS
In the past year, we have seen a noticeable increase in requests for mediation as a means of resolving workplace issues. Used strategically, mediation can be a constructive process that assists the parties in dispute to reach an effective resolution.
As with all forms of dispute resolution, it is an ever evolving process and so we thought it might be useful to share some learnings from our own recent experience that might give you “food for thought” the next time that you are contemplating the use of mediation:
1. Think about why the parties are seeking mediation
Recently we have been involved in a number of cases where mediation was a mandatory step in a prescribed HR process. Whilst it is encouraging to see organisations appreciating the benefits of mediation, and inviting employees to actively engage in resolving the conflict themselves, in order for the mediation to be productive the parties need to be committed to the process themselves, not just forced to attend.
Following a complaint by a CEO against the Board, the Chairperson of the Board saw mediation as a good opportunity to improve the relationship between the Board members and the CEO of the Organisation and invoked mediation as part of the organisation’s dispute resolution process.
At the mediation, our Mediator found that a number of the Board members were not really interested in engaging in a discussion about the issues in dispute and were cynical about the mediation process, describing it as a “tick the box” requirement. Ultimately, the matter was not resolved at mediation.
Prior to the mediation, have a frank discussion with the participants about what they hope to achieve from the mediation. The participants need to be prepared to work constructively, creatively and collaboratively to find a resolution of the issues in dispute.
2. Managers should not use mediations to avoid their own responsibilities
Managing conflict in the workplace is a challenging task. Many of the managers we meet lack confidence about how to deal with employees in conflict and feel unable to have the “difficult conversations”. Where managers avoid dealing with the situation this can lead to an escalation of the problem and to employees losing faith in management. Some of the disputes we see being mediated could possibly have been short circuited by an earlier intervention and decisive management.
Are your managers equipped to deal with conflict? Make sure Managers are trained to recognise conflict in the workplace and deal with it.
3. Timeliness is everything
We are often brought in to try and mediate disputes that have been going on for a long time. By the time the parties reach mediation, they are hostile and too entrenched in their own positions to engage in a constructive discussion. The forum becomes focused on past transgressions and injustices rather than an opportunity to work on their future relationship.
Early intervention can prevent the matter from escalating and impacting others in the work environment. Keep in mind that a formal mediation might not be what is required at an early stage – a discussion with another staff member acting as a facilitator might be a better approach for example.
If a dispute has been going on for some time and the decision to use mediation is made, don’t delay in getting it organised or allow employees to prevaricate.
A complainant requested mediation but then refused to commit to a date and time, stating that they were busy at work. The respondent became frustrated with the delay and the fact that the issues between them remained unresolved.
Our mediator explained to the complainant that her delay in committing to the process was unfair to the respondent and could potentially frustrate their prospects of having a fruitful discussion. The complainant revealed that she was anxious about discussing the issues with the respondent and though she wanted them resolved she was scared. The mediator encouraged her to bring a support person to the mediation, which she did.
Encourage managers to act early where they see trouble brewing between staff members and encourage them to sit down and discuss their issues before they escalate
4. Be very clear about the role of the support person
Offering participants a support person is an integral part of a procedurally fair process. Participants need to have a clear understanding of the role of the support person, that they are there to offer moral support and not be an advocate. Ideally, a support person should not be involved in the dispute or work closely with the individuals. A family member or friend from outside the organisation is usually appropriate.
In a recent dispute which we mediated, the manager of the two employees in dispute appeared as support person for one of them, despite our Mediator’s advice that this could be problematic. The manager was clearly frustrated by the conflict between the two employees and spoke about his frustration and raised his voice which was intimidating for those involved. The second employee also felt that the manager demonstrated bias against him by acting as support person for the other employee. The manager was so disruptive that rather than his presence assisting the process, it effectively derailed it.
Make sure employees are clear about the role of a support person. At the start of the mediation speak to the support person about your expectations of them and request their cooperation.
WELCOME JASON CLARK TO WORKLOGIC!
Worklogic is very happy to announce the appointment of Jason Clark as Worklogic’s Sydney based Associate Director.
Jason joins us from the Australian Defence Force where he was Joint Investigation Office Commander leading a team of investigators in managing challenging and complex investigations.
Jason will be working with our clients across New South Wales, the ACT and Queensland, as well as travelling across Australia where necessary.
Jason’s contact details are:
Phone: 02 9238 6169
Mobile: 0405 531 835