Dorothy McKinney, Mediator and Coach, answers your most frequently asked questions about how to resolve difficult situations, reduce conflict and increase wellbeing in the workplace.
Workplace investigations are undertaken when there has been an incident of some kind or issues have come to light and you need to understand what happened to allow a decision to be made on the next steps. The investigation can be undertaken using the protocols of the relevant policy, e.g. bullying and harassment, discipline, equality, capability etc.
It is important to conduct workplace investigations to ensure that all relevant information is gathered and analysed fairly and consistently which will then support a robust decision on the way forward.
It is important that the workplace investigation and decision-making processes are kept separate. This ensures independence and a more robust outcome. This means, except for very small organisations, that a manager should not undertake the investigation and then decide on the outcome.
The person conducting the investigation should also have the skills and knowledge to do so in a proportionate and robust manner.
For a straightforward investigation we usually estimate 2 hour meetings with the complainant and respondent and 1 hour meetings with witnesses.
Writing up and agreeing non verbatim notes takes time and a half again. Allow 3 hours for case management, add all the time up and allow half of this for writing the report.
Where the case is more complex, increase the time for interviews to 3 hours and witnesses to 1.5 hours and add time (depends on how many folders you are passed!) in to analyse information.
In terms of timescales, you need to allow for preparation, planning, agreeing dates to see people and giving them time to review notes and follow-up questions. Even the smallest investigation can take a few weeks to complete if there are challenges agreeing dates, times and representation.
Prepare for the meeting by thinking through all the questions which need answered depending on the information you already have. However it is very important to commence the meeting, after the usual opening statements with, ‘Tell me what happened,’ as this ensures that you get the context before and after the incident/issue and allow the person to tell it as they see it.
Open questions such as, ‘What happened? Who else was there? Why was that? What was going through your mind at the time?’ etc. are great questions and take no preparation.
Remember to follow up the answers to dig a bit deeper and really understand what happened.
Our workshops cover the following:
• The legal and statutory context
• The critical role of Terms of Reference and planning
• How to conduct an investigatory interview
• Good questions to ask in an investigatory interview
• How to gather and analyse evidence
• Understanding corroboration
• How to prepare a robust report
• Understanding your potential role at a hearing, appeal and Employment Tribunal
This training will give you the skills and knowledge needed to conduct effective workplace investigations.
Psychologists Art Bell and Brett Hart carried out a study on workplace conflict and workplace tension in 2000-2002. They identified these eight root causes of workplace conflict:
• Conflicting resources
• Conflicting styles
• Conflicting perceptions
• Conflicting goals
• Conflicting pressures
• Conflicting roles
• Different personal values
• Unpredictable policies
If workplace conflict isn’t resolved and needs are left unmet, the drama will disrupt workflow and send out negative ripples that will spread low morale, low productivity, low retention and high absence levels throughout your organisation. Not to mention the havoc it will wreak on decision-making.
This is why it’s important to manage conflict in the workplace by ensuring that your managers are equipped with the skills and tools needed to identify, understand and resolve conflict before it escalates to a point of no return.
We provide a range of workshops, one to one coaching and easy to use tools that will support your managers to manage people and workplace conflict effectively.
The conflict resolution process begins when a manager gives ‘in the moment’ feedback to employees when conflict occurs in the workplace.
An informal, one to one, discussion where a manager describes what the employee has done, explains the impact, acknowledges understanding of their position and lets them know how they can do things differently next time.
If this fails to resolve the situation, a formal one to one meeting will take place where the manager uses a 7-step process to define, explore and agree upon a win-win solution that will be followed up by regular review meetings.
If this fails to resolve the situation, case management and mediation may be required and in cases where there has been an alleged breach of HR policy, an investigation may be required.
We provide case management, mediation and investigation services as well as a range of conflict resolution workshops and coaching for managers.
Your HR processes and policies will determine which conflict resolution tools and ways of working you can use at each stage of the resolution process.
However, the tried and true tools that I use are DEAL with it!, Transforming Conversations, Facilitation, Mediation, supporting an open culture and courage to challenge.
The most effective conflict resolution technique is to have transformational conversations – asking the right questions, actively listening, acknowledging their position and focusing on developing win-win solutions.
To find out more, sign-up for a copy of our ‘6 Steps to Deliver Transformational Conversations’ worksheet.
There are a number of models of mediation, however the one that we use in the workplace is where the mediator meets each person on a one to one basis and then undertakes a joint session. These sessions are always confidential unless all parties agree otherwise.
The one to one meetings support the parties to speak in a safe and confidential environment and deepens their understanding of what is happening between them and the other party.
The joint session supports the parties to identify and discuss the issues, gain a mutual understanding of what has been happening, how this has impacted on each other and then work on solutions.
Mediation can be used at any stage in the conflict cycle – it gives a quick outcome and actions and/or changes to behaviour can be put in place immediately.
Mediation is a great tool where people need to work together in the future and both parties are willing to listen and shift their position to some extent.
An experienced and skilled mediator can work with issues which have been around for some time and support the parties to reflect and make some real changes to their behaviours and approach to others.
Mediation is not the best conflict resolution tool to use if:
• A critical conduct related standard is at stake
• One or both parties have dug in and refuse to listen
• One or more have been involved in similar situations with others previously
• The input of others is needed to resolve the issue (e.g. if the manager has not dealt with the situation well)
• Policy does not allow this tool to be used at this point in the process
• There are significant organisational risks relating to the parties involved
In these circumstances, mediation is not appropriate. However, many other tools can be used in its place.
Your most important asset is your staff, so looking after their mental and physical wellbeing is essential if you want to meet your organisational goals. And as an employer, you have a ‘duty of care’ to look after the wellbeing of your employees.
Having a workplace wellbeing strategy in place that instils behaviours and actions conducive to a healthy working environment, will ensure that the health and wellbeing of your employees is supported.
You can increase wellbeing in the workplace by using a combination of 5 proactive approaches that work together to bring about sustainable, long-term improvements to the wellbeing of employees. These approaches are:
1. Recruit an Inclusive and Diverse Workforce
2. Support Managers to Engage with Absent Employees
3. Nurture your Organisation’s Culture
4. Apply Case Management Support
5. Regulate Workload Pressure
Find out more by reading our blog – http://dorothymckinney.co.uk/5-ways-reduce-employee-absence-increase-wellbeing/