Conflict Resolution

Problems in the workplace have existed since the Roman times.  Julius Caesar is a good example of somebody whose dictatorial managerial style upset and alienated some of his senior management colleagues, to the extent that they brought his employment to an end in a somewhat drastic manner.

Unfortunately for the conspirators, a distinct lack of risk management, business planning and foresight meant that the consequence of their action resulted in chaos for the Roman Republic, with a hostile takeover bid by an outside organisation.  To add insult to injury to this misogynist organisation, (who had yet to implement the Equality Act) the bid was led by a female entrepreneur from Egypt who entered into a management buyout agreement (with fringe benefits) with a leading member of the Republics senior management team.

Had such a series of events happened in the 21st century and with the advent of modern management processes then there is a distinct possibility that these problems could have been nipped in the bud.

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Through the auspices of the HR Department, a disgruntled Brutus would have been able to use the grievance procedure at the informal stage, whereby over a glass or two of Chianti (not that we are advocating drinking in the workplace) he could have explored his complaints with Caesar.  The alienation felt by fellow work colleagues brought about by a dictatorial management and decision-making style would have provided Caesar the opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings with Brutus and the Senate.  Secondly, with the assistance of HR or a mentor, Caesar would have been able to reflect upon and better understand the impact of his personality upon the organisation and put in place a personal development plan.

However, if Brutus was not satisfied that his complaints had been resolved, rather than resign and take the matter to the Employment Tribunal, by use of the Grievance Procedure he could either continue and seek external assistance in the form of ACAS, HR or use a clean pair of hands to resolve the matter at the informal level, or proceed to stage 1 of the Grievance Procedure.

Although the Grievance procedure provides a structure to manage the problem this has to be handled sensitively in that the “process” can lead to unexpected consequences.

The moral of the story is that if problems can be resolved at an early stage it is all to the good; if however, you progress into the formal grievance procedure, then careful thought must be given towards the end game.

In common with all grievances Brutus must know what he wants to achieve as a successful outcome and whether it is realistic.

The complexity as to how this problem can escalate becomes apparent if Caesar will not or cannot change his behaviour, or indeed has in fact breached the disciplinary procedure, (such as the odd extra judicial murder) in which event the organisation (i.e. the Senate) and not Brutus has to consider:

  • If the allegations are of a disciplinary nature do we suspend Caesar?
  • Will the disciplinary procedure now take precedence over the grievance procedure?
  • What if Caesar gets a bit upset and takes out a grievance against Brutus alleging that he is disabled by reason of his epilepsy and that Brutus is acting in bad faith and should be disciplined?

  • What if the grievance procedure runs its course and is not upheld and it is evident that Caesar and Brutus cannot work together? Do we move Brutus to another role such as governing Britannia or would that be regarded as a punishment posting and run the risk of constructive dismissal?
  • If the investigatory report recommends disciplinary action against Caesar, do we consider a settlement agreement? Bearing in mind the recent changes from the Inland Revenue about payment in lieu of notice being considered within the £30K tax free provisions, does this make any without prejudice offer less attractive?

Resolving conflict in the workplace as early as possible is vitally important to the individual working relationships and the well-being of the organisation. It is never easy for anybody when problems do occur, but not addressing them early, promptly and in a fair or consistent manner is a recipe for disaster.  Had Brutus the benefit of a grievance procedure, then the problems with Caesar could have been resolved, leading to a long term successful business and personal relationship: history would have taken a different course!

As for Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, we shall cover this in our next blog when we focus upon relationships in the workplace and parental / paternity leave.

Source/Author: Kieran Conroy, HR Professional, HR Solutions Team

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