As Hallowe’en and Guy Fawkes Night approach, a leading Aberdeen legal expert shares top tips on how to avoid fright and fireworks in the workplace.
According to Lili Hunter, conflict in the workplace can be costly in terms of time as well as having an effect on productivity due to sickness absence levels, employment law claims by employees and legal costs in defending claims.
A new ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures was issued in 2009 encouraging employers to consider mediation as an option in resolving disputes in the workplace.
“The mediation approach differs from the traditional style of litigation which often causes public fireworks,” explains Lili. “Indeed it flies in the face of Guy Fawkes with his underhand, secretive plot and it is there to help avoid a large scale explosion!”
“Mediation can be an incredibly useful method of resolving conflicts and can help avoid an explosive situation arising or developing into a scene akin to a horror movie. It is a non confrontational method and aims to find common ground between the employee and the employer by getting all issues out into the open.
“Mediation creates a win/win situation as opposed to the win/lose situation of employment tribunals and courts and it is a process which can help to restore trust and understanding between parties. In many cases mediation can lead to a productive future working relationship.”
Lili says that top tips to avoid explosive situations include:
- Understanding employees – what makes individuals tick? Having an honest and open relationship between parties may help avoid fireworks. Employers should find a way to get behind the mask of employees when resolving workplace issues. Establishing a mutually beneficial relationship based on trust can ultimately help both parties progress when problems arise.
- Communication – Often a line manager will assume that employees know what is expected of them when things haven’t been explained. Also, an employee who is suddenly accused of poor performance after a glowing appraisal will rightly be shocked – employees cannot be expected to be mind readers. Equally, there must be clear lines of communication open for employees to ask questions when they do not understand – if an employee is silent a manager may assume that the employee has no problems.
- Make the most of your people – employees who feel that their achievements are not recognised will quickly look elsewhere, or become a shadow of their formal self if not provided with opportunities. Sometimes an employee who is aggressive or perceived to be “evil” simply needs more support or training. There may be personal circumstances of which the employer is not aware which is causing stress.
Lili adds: “Ideally through successful policies and practices within the workplace and training employees on these policies, along with effective management training programmes, disputes will never arise. Most potential problems are avoidable. Companies need not face a potential Guy Fawkes catastrophe or Hallowe’en fright if they simply listen to and communicate effectively with their employees.”
“However, in practice, preventative measures are not 100% effective and mediation is a successful tool when disputes arise. What may be perceived as harassment or bullying may often be resolved quickly and effectively through understanding what the real issue is – court or tribunal action will rarely achieve this.
Lili Hunter Consulting and Lili Hunter Legal are located at 499 Union Street, Aberdeen, AB11 6DB. For further information on employment law, training and mediation visit www.lilihunter.com Alternatively, call (01224) 228100.