Workplace Investigations: Avoid Them Through Better Planning and Processes

Investigations into workplace bullying and harassment can be expensive not only in the outlay and diversion of resources, but also in their overall effect on workplace culture, trust, retention, absenteeism and “presenteeism”, etc. In fact, as Gray and Marshall report, “Investigations are a significant investment, so be honest up front: if resources are not available, the HR group risks over-reaching, and the damage of a botched investigation can be greater than the original complaint.”[1]

Despite all of the information, training and regulations about bullying and harassment available to organizations, are investigations still happening so frequently?

Several HR professionals that we have worked with have told us that when unhappy employees have no other resources or processes to follow, and don’t feel comfortable speaking up, they will file a bullying or harassment complaint because their employer can’t ignore it. While there are very legitimate bullying and harassment issues that require appropriate attention, we also know that many of these complaints can relate more to general workplace conflict, can be managed in a more productive manner, and even prevented.

Conflict in any environment is inevitable, and in the workplace, where we spend a huge amount of time interacting with co-workers, managers, clients, etc., it can be both frequent and especially destructive.  By putting a workplace conflict management program in place, employers can prevent the worst effects of conflict and manage what does arise effectively.

Consider the difference:

An employee in a company that has no explicit system in place, and perhaps a culture where conflict is avoided, will generally either leave or work in a less than effective manner. If they stay and decide to take action, and if their problem with others can even remotely be framed as bullying and harassment, they will often follow the path available to them under the relevant WorkSafeBC regulations. Since the investigative process is rarely pleasant for anyone involved, this is likely to lead to an expensive and unhappy outcome all around. The overall approach is defensive and reactive.

 

An employee in a company with a conflict management program in place, first of all, likely has received training in conflict management skills and works for a manager who is trained in the conflict management skills important in leadership. The workplace culture allows for people to speak up about problems without retribution. If the manager is unable to help resolve the problem, then the manager or the HR team is trained to assess, or has access to someone who can assess the situation and steer it to the most effective resources and/or process. The overall approach is open and proactive.

There are skilled investigators available who can approach this process in the healthiest manner possible, and can help everyone achieve the best possible outcome. However, what is healthier for the workplace overall, and therefore for the business itself, is a well-planned, communicated and established program where investigation is only one of many possible tools, and is only used when appropriate.

Conflict is expensive. We can help.

Contact us at 604-684-1300 x200 (or toll-free 1-877-656-1300 x200) to find out how we can design and operate or support a workplace conflict management program for your organization.

[1] Gray, H. and Marshall, G. Investigation is the New Arbitration. PeopleTalk, Spring 2017.

Conflict is expensive. We can help. Visit us at HRMA Conference & Tradeshow 2017

Top 5 Reasons to Work with a Conflict Coach

Ugh. Another day at the office.

How many of your workers feel like this before coming to work? Many leaders and their employees go to work daily worrying about unresolved conflict. One study found that 85% of employees have to deal with conflict to some degree and 36% also spend a significant amount of time managing disputes.

The costs of unresolved conflict in the workplace are innumerable. From lower employee engagement and productivity and higher absenteeism, to loss of customers, as outward-facing employees experiencing stress and conflict often are not capable of representing your business in its best light.

Often it’s leaders who bear the brunt and carry the burden of conflict.

According to a recent Globe and Mail article, “Leaders who lack conflict management skills and avoid conflict often end up being less effective at achieving their defined business objectives, have more trouble managing people and being fulfilled by their job.”

Conflict Coaching to the rescue!

What is “Conflict Coaching”?

Geschftsleute halten zwei groe PuzzleteileConflict coaching emerged from the executive coaching and conflict resolution fields, as practitioners explored ways to support individual clients who were troubled by a specific conflict or seeking enhanced “conflict competency” – the ability to communicate and manage conflict. Pioneers like Cinnie Noble, Tricia Jones and Ross Binkert led the way, merging their expertise in conflict resolution – including third-party led methods like mediation – with individual-focused executive coaching that supports individuals in expanding their workplace competencies.

Conflict coaching is typically a one-on-one process, focused on individual goals and conflict management needs. Client goals might include enhancing conflict competency, integrating learning from conflict resolution training, or preparing for a difficult conflict conversation, or a more formal conflict resolution process such as mediation.

Effective leaders have high conflict competency, respond to pressures and change more constructively, build more productive teams and help create a positive work environment.

Top 5 Reasons to Work with a Conflict Coach

 

1. Hone your conflict competency and be a more effective leader.

Develop positive and productive conflict management skills. Increase your understanding of conflict dynamics and your awareness of your own conflict style. Learn how to mitigate the impact of conflict and manage conflict in more constructive and collaborative ways. Your coach will guide you through competency development.

2. You have unresolved conflict.

Your coach will help you analyze the conflict situation and develop a strategy for resolving or managing the conflict and build your problem-solving skills. Clients report increased confidence when supported by a conflict coach.

3. You are going to mediation.

Conflict coaching can help you prepare for mediation, during the mediation from behind-the-scenes, and after the mediation. Your coach will help you identify your goals for the mediation, and how to achieve them.

4. You want to integrate conflict resolution training.

Research shows that ROI on training is increased by up to 500% when training is coupled with or followed by one-on-one or group coaching.

5. Conflict Coaching benefits everyone.

Learning how to manage conflict effectively – rather than reacting to conflict in negative or potentially destructive ways – benefits the coaching client, and everyone the client deals with! Organizations benefit when their employees and leaders enhance their conflict competency.

Conflict coaching is dynamic and flexible, and is available to individuals one-on-one, and to groups and teams.

Carrie Gallant
Carrie Gallant

Carrie Gallant is a lawyer, Executive Coach and certified in Conversational Intelligence®. She is also a Mediate BC Civil Roster mediator, teacher and trainer. Carrie’s expertise in negotiation, conflict management and career counselling provides a rich foundation to her passion for helping others uncover what really matters and solve problems creatively. For more information, please contact carrie@gallantsolutionsinc.com.

 

Conflict Resolution Week 2016