Tag Archives: 08 Disputes and complaints
All organisations run into controversies about issues or changes under consideration. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the way it is handled can determine whether an organisation will emerge from the discussions bruised and divided, or healed, confident and united.
The following tips for managing controversies in meetings are drawn from Eli Mina Consulting.
- Meet with the individuals before the meeting. Contact potentially disruptive individuals or factions before the meeting and try to resolve any legitimate concerns. Reassure them that the meeting will be run fairly and ask for their support.
- Set a constructive tone for the meeting—don’t assign blame. Try opening the discussion by saying “The issues before us today are not easy. At the same time I am confident that we can work together, debate the issues and reach positive outcomes for our organisation and community”.
- Remind members of the organisation’s vision, goals and values. At the start of the meeting—and again if things become heated—say “It would be helpful to remind ourselves of our purpose and goals for the future, which are: ____. If we want the best for our organisation and community, then we need to ask ourselves: Are we on track right now?”
- Remind people about guidelines for meetings. Introduce or remind people about the meeting guidelines at the beginning and have them approved/confirmed by the members. You might say “Let’s remember before we start the meeting today that we should speak when recognised by the chair, focus on the issues and not people, be respectful and behave properly”.
- Try to modify contentious proposals. When the issue is being discussed, see if the contentious proposal can be modified (without compromising it) to take into account valid concerns. Integrate constructive suggestions.
- Intervene if necessary. Intervene decisively if members are disruptive. Try saying “Please focus on the issues and not the personalities” or “Please give others the same respect that you want when you are speaking”.
- Use positive language. Convert criticisms into options and interests. Instead of “You sound unhappy with our leadership” say “You seem to be suggesting that we could be more inclusive and better tuned to the needs of the members that we serve”.
- Set up the room for consensus. This can be as simple as replacing parallel rows with round tables. See if you can break adversarial patterns by mixing the group’s various factions.
The Canadian Institute for Conflict Resolution suggests these techniques to help manage issue-based conflicts.
- Acknowledge the value of different views. Acknowledge the value and importance of divergent views in making decisions.
- Practise good listening skills. Practise and encourage good listening skills, understanding and respect. Clarify the ground rules for effective communication, for example:
- discussions are confidential
- others are allowed to have their say
- there is group ownership of problems and solutions.
- Focus on issues rather than personalities.
- Name the problem. Help the parties define the issue. State what you understand it to be and seek agreement between them on a clear definition of the issue.
- Seek agreement on outcomes. Seek agreement from the parties on the objectives, outcomes or decisions sought, by placing this item on the board agenda.
- Help parties identify why the issue is important. Seek consensus from the parties on why the issue matters, rather than encouraging more debate on who has the best solution or idea.
- Conduct a role-play. Ask each to step into the other’s shoes and role-play the debate from the other’s perspective.
- Summarise the discussion. Paraphrase or summarise the discussions several times until there is consensus on points of agreement and disagreement.
- Seek compromise. Encourage the parties to suggest new insights or compromises. Seek agreement on a compromise.
- Restate the solution. Restate the favoured solution. Check with parties to see if it is acceptable and if it will allow them to resolve the matter.
- Document the decision. Table or document the item to be dealt with after a cooling-off period.
Developing a confidential, flexible and fair grievance policy Maari Ma Health Aboriginal Corporation is a community controlled regional health service providing for the needs of Aboriginal people in far west NSW. Maari Ma promotes a friendly and supportive workplace where staff …Read More Posted in Case Studies Tagged 08 Disputes and complaints
In order to achieve agreements and decisions that will last, people must feel that the dispute resolution and complaint processes and outcomes are:
- procedurally legitimate and fair. People have had the opportunity to participate, put forward their views and be listened to,and have confidence in the information, rules and processes.
- emotionally satisfying and restorative of social cohesion. These are people’s personal and emotional reasons for the dispute or grievance—whether they feel those have been taken into account in the process, and how they feel about themselves and others after outcomes have been negotiated.
- substantively ‘resolved’. This means addressing the actual issues or intangible things under dispute which people are actually seeking to have resolved.
(Adapted from ‘The Satisfaction Triangle: A Simple Measure for Negotiations and Decision Making’. The Indigenous Facilitation and Mediation Project, 2004. AIATSIS, Canberra)
Effective strategies include:
- detailed HR policies and written procedures that clearly set out the rights, roles and responsibilities of management and staff, including how disputes and complaints should be addressed at regular staff meetings
- a strong internal culture that values feedback and open communication across the whole organisation
- staff codes of conduct
- a clear chain of command and lines of reporting, supervision and delegation
- cross-cultural training, inductions and customised training that deal with processes for resolving disputes, grievances and complaints
- professional development and career opportunities
- expectations and standards for staff conduct set out in their contracts and performance agreements
- annual performance reviews where a range of sensitive issues can be discussed and addressed
- consistency and fairness in decision making and policy implementation by managers
- clear rules and procedures for the working relationship between staff members and the governing body
- access to external mediation or counsel if disputes are entrenched or focus on the top manager.
Effective strategies include:
- honest and informative communication and feedback between a governing body and top manager
- clearly setting out, understanding and having a mutual respect for each other’s role, knowledge and responsibilities
- a clearly enforced chain of command between the governing body, top manager and staff
- regular meetings between the chairperson and top manager to discuss potentially problematic issues
- expectations and standards for the top manager’s conduct, set out in their contract and performance agreement
- annual review of the top manager’s performance, carried out by the governing body
- a written code of conduct for the top manager
- written procedures for counselling and/or dismissing the top manager for poor performance, misconduct or prolonged dispute with the governing body
- written procedures for appeal by the top manager for unfair dismissal or treatment by the governing body
- written policies and delegations to enable the top manager to get on with their job without hostility or interference from the governing body
- professional development, mentoring and training opportunities for the top manager in mediation and negotiation skills
- succession planning for the top manager’s position—no-one stays forever.
Effective strategies to build the capacity of governing bodies to deal with conflict and misconduct include:
- delivering customised training in dispute mediation and negotiation
- ensuring the governing body carries out an annual self-evaluation of its own governance performance, and its ability to work and make decisions as a group
- providing regular briefings and progress reports on issues under dispute
- developing specific policies setting out expectations for codes of conduct, conflicts of interest, governing roles and responsibilities, and guidelines for resolving internal disputes and complaints
- training in how to run productive meetings and make consensus decisions
- development of protocols and procedures for grievances and appeals
- using the strategic plan, succession planning and future vision as guides for more consistent decision making, to reduce factionalism and conflict
- drawing on the cultural input and advice of the wider peer groups of leaders in a nation or community
- development of governance charters and manuals laying out agreed values, rules and commitments.
If you are an incorporated organisation registered with the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth) you can also ask the registrar to intervene to resolve disputes.
- Governing body—disagreement and conflict within the governing body itself; poor chairing or bullying at meetings; poor conduct and dishonesty; interference by the governing body in the daily work of individual staff and managers; intimidation or unilateral direction of staff.
- Management—poor conduct and dishonesty among management; tension and unresolved issues between the governing body and top manager; poor management communication and leadership; inconsistent decision making and application of policies; poor work performance; failure to communicate relevant information to governing body and staff.
- Staff—poor conduct and dishonesty; harassment and tensions between management and staff; operating without delegation; poor work performance; confusion about roles and responsibilities; failure to report on actions and progress.
- Have a written complaints and dispute resolution policy and procedure. Complaints are usually handled first by a designated officer, and if needed they can go to the top manager or the governing body as the ultimate decision maker.
- Approach the person or people directly involved. This can clarify the issues and then, if needed, the grievance can be put in writing or documented through a translator.
- Use a phased approach for resolution and keep a register or file. This can help people to see that the situation is being taken seriously and the process can be tracked through its different stages.
- Use traditional mechanisms as relevant, such as referral to a council of elders, or invoking the positive influence of particular kinship, ceremonial or gender-based institutions of authority.
- Use external mechanisms. If the dispute or grievance remains unresolved, external mechanisms—such as an agreed mediator, independent arbitrator, or referral to the services of representative bodies or non-government organisations with dispute resolution expertise—can help.
- Maintain good communication with the parties involved, including communication about their issues, rights, interests and options.
- Develop broader governance policy frameworks and charters that set out the codes of conduct, roles, responsibilities and rights of the governing body, management and staff in relation to members—and vice versa.