Catherine Gillespie - Workplace Conflict Resolution - Resolving Issues


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Catherine Gillespie delivered the presentation at the 2014 Return to Work Forum.

The 2014 Return to Work Forum brought together speakers from multiple sectors to share best practice in return to work, injury management and rehabilitation.

For more information about the event, please visit:

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Catherine Gillespie - Workplace Conflict Resolution - Resolving Issues

  1. 1. Using mediation to reduce psychological stress claims & as astress claims & as a RTW tool Return to Work Forum 2014
  2. 2. Introduction: Workplace Conflict Resolution • Nationally accredited and experienced workplace mediators • Grievance Investigators • Conflict prevention and resolution • Masters of Workplace and Employment Law/Juris Doctor• Masters of Workplace and Employment Law/Juris Doctor Catherine: • Over an 18 month period conducted 90% of WorkSafe Victoria’s WIR mediations as part of a RTW program • WIR = Workplace Issues Resolution – a program designed to support early RTW using mediation in Government sectors for psych stress workers comp cases
  3. 3. Psychosocial Hazards @ Work • Bullying, Harassment, Violence, Fatigue • Work factors (excessive hours, unreasonable demands, inflexible work arrangements, poor work-life balance) • Physical work environment (noise, ergonomics, overcrowding) • Organisational Practices (poor communication, unclear• Organisational Practices (poor communication, unclear roles/tasks/responsibilities, unclear line of accountability, poor leadership, performance management, lack of autonomy, management decisions – not reasonable/not transparent) • Workplace change (job insecurity, uncertainty, rate of change, com’s around change, staff turnover, change in status) • Interpersonal issues (conflict, poor workplace relationships, personality differences, lack of friends, intolerance of diversity, misunderstanding) WHO (2009), Econtech (2008) & others
  4. 4. Why Can’t We ‘See’ These Issues? • Managers are too busy and are not ‘looking out’ for issues • ‘It is how we’ve always done it’ • Managers expect others to have higher resilience levels • Staff not communicating and presenting issues • Managers dismissing staff complaints• Managers dismissing staff complaints • Conflict avoidance especially around ‘soft’ issues • Robust conversation or bullying? • Light hearted banter or belittling?
  5. 5. The Slippery Slope Prelude Factors Seeking Confirmation Events Compounding Based on diagram of conflict by The Conflict Network
  6. 6. Addressing ‘Issues’ Early • Up skilling team members and managers to be able to constructively address issues at the earliest moment possible • Embracing team members suggestions/perspectives etc • Training • Leading by example • Embedding as culture• Embedding as culture • Taking informal • complaints seriously • Follow through - comms
  7. 7. Addressing ‘Issues’ Early • Conflict Management training for everyone • Advanced Conflict Management training for Mangers • Resilience and Stress Mastery training for everyone • Leadership Skills & Styles Training- - Affiliative – friendly, approachable, supports individual and- Affiliative – friendly, approachable, supports individual and team satisfaction through creating team work and team bonds - Transformational – motivates and engages staff by explaining vision then setting achievable small detailed goals, high levels of communication, ‘positive/can do’ attitude - Coaching – delegates and empowers, encourages problem solving, supports with training, offers positive and corrective feedback in a very supportive manner
  8. 8. The Slippery Slope Claim Submission Perspective Now Set as Multiple Re-telling of Story Perspective Now Set as Reality Events Compounding No Desire to RTW
  9. 9. When To Use Mediation
  10. 10. The Slippery Slope Prelude Factors Seeking Confirmation Events Compounding Based on diagram of conflict by The Conflict Network
  11. 11. The Slippery Slope Claim Submission Perspective Now Set as Multiple Re-telling of Story Perspective Now Set as Reality Events Compounding No Desire to RTW
  12. 12. Addressing ‘Issues’ Early • Incidents leading to psychological injury can present as insurmountable barriers to return to work c.f. physical injury incidents • RTW plans for physical injury usually have• RTW plans for physical injury usually have concrete steps/actions that are measureable, observable, specific, time imposed etc to eliminate or greatly reduce chances of reoccurrence • RTW plans for psychological injury (especially interpersonal conflict) usually don’t. It’s more of a ‘trust me’ approach
  13. 13. Why use Mediation • External mediator is seen as independent and promotes fairness to each party involved and therefore supports a higher level of real engagement in the mediation process • Mediators are experts in the mediation process - resolving issues quickly and effectively • Parties often share new information with a confidential,• Parties often share new information with a confidential, external, independent mediator • An external mediator brings a ‘new set of eyes’ to the situation • Parties often feel better heard and understood • Skilled Mediators can coach parties to use improved communication techniques at work • Agreement supports parties & the organisation
  14. 14. When to use External Mediator • When the issue between employees and the circumstances are beyond the scope of the relevant manager/s ability to appropriately resolve or mediate • When a conflict between two employees cannot be resolved internally by following HR policies and procedures • When the issue potentially can turn into a WorkCover psychological stress claim • After a psychological stress claim has been made and either worker or medical practitioner recognises need to return to work but not until interpersonal conflict has been resolved and other contributing factors have been addressed
  15. 15. Setting up the process • Let GP and Psychologist know that mediation is available to address barriers to RTW and ask that they talk about this with IW • Have documentation on process- that’s is supportive, involves pre mediation conflict & comms coaching for all parties, can have support person, confidential, detailed agreement (both parties, RTW Co-ord and Psych to have a copy of agreement to supportRTW Co-ord and Psych to have a copy of agreement to support continued implementation) AND spells out benefits • Set up easy comms process for these Professionals to let you know IW’s perspective and when process has green light • Get agreement in writing from Professionals for IW’s participation
  16. 16. Additional things to think of • Holding the mediation off site • Providing refreshments • Obtaining recommendations to address issues at work beyond control of the parties but impacting on the situation • Providing continued support to both parties• Providing continued support to both parties • ‘Touching base’ with both parties regularly – don’t let this fall off the radar • Putting structures in place to ensure agreement items can be achieved – i.e. time release, regular booking for meeting room, additional equipment or resources, short term change work station location, short term change in reporting lines (last two points not ideal) etc
  17. 17. Benefits • Cost and Time effective process • Reduces loss of productivity at the workplace • Reduces time and resources being used by org to resolve • Assists in keeping morale high within the team/department • Reduces staff turnover • Provides a learning opportunity for parties and their manager• Provides a learning opportunity for parties and their manager • Can eliminate the need for WorkCover claim and/or litigation • Instils trust and faith in the organisation – shows they want resolution and prepared to support this • Employees RTW in a more timely manner = benefits to employee mental health and well being • Employees RTW in a more timely manner = reduced effect on premium and other business costs
  18. 18. Types of Mediation • For 90% of cases, a facilitative/restorative mediation approach is most favourable and produces best outcomes • Parties feel listened to • Highlight past events – not for blame but learning • Parties gain better insight into preferences/thoughts of the other party. Breaks down assumptionsparty. Breaks down assumptions • Clarity on how things will be changed and how parties will interact • Sets scene/starting point for rebuilding of trust & relationship • For 10% of cases, a directive mediation approach produces best outcomes • This works best when one or more parties are a ‘high conflict personality’ • A decisive approach to building a detailed written agreement
  19. 19. A restorative approach Empathy Intellectual understanding for another’s experience with a willingness to acknowledge their discomfort or suffering and a preparedness to listen. Respect An attitude treasuring the unique dignity of every person. Recognition Justice A balanced and fair relationship with ourself, our colleague, other team members and all workers in the organisation. Recognition With clearly defined and small steps, trust can be rebuilt and workplace relationships can be restored.
  20. 20. Getting the Most Out of Mediation • Look for a mediation process that also includes: • Pre-mediation individual conferencing and conflict coaching • Post mediation follow up with parties including coaching • Having support persons present as silent parties • Allows a manager to sit in as a silent party• Allows a manager to sit in as a silent party • At least a full day for the joint mediation meeting • The delivery of a typed and signed agreement for each party, their manager and HR (to support implementation of and adherence to the agreement) • Feedback from the mediator to management and HR re new insights, how to manage personality differences, systemic issues • Informing parties that they can be performance managed over breaches in confidentiality & breaches of the agreement
  21. 21. Case Studies
  22. 22. Workplace Conflict Resolution • 1300 227 901 • •