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Fireworks in the Workplace

Remember, remember the fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot! This famous phrase reminds us of the failed conspiracy between Guy Fawkes and parliament. The fireworks and bonfires lit every year...

Remember, remember the fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason and plot!

This famous phrase reminds us of the failed conspiracy between Guy Fawkes and parliament. The fireworks and bonfires lit every year represent the fight and the outcome we all remember.  Does this remind you of anyone in particular? Do you see employees reaching their limit and exploding in anger over something in the office?

Disagreements and disputes in the workplace can be awkward and uncomfortable for everyone. Aggressive and intimidating employees can escalate quickly putting the safety and welfare of your staff at risk.  Ideally, these types of situations need to be prevented.  However, sometimes they can go unnoticed and you may only be made aware once the situation is serious.


How do I deal with a workplace dispute?

A good grievance procedure will always try to encourage informal resolution in the first instance and where this is possible and appropriate.  Mediation is on of the most suitable informal ways to resolve most workplace conflicts. Mediation works best when in a neutral environment and large enough room to accommodate all parties wishing to be heard.  An impartial facilitator should head the meeting and ensure all parties are given adequate time to explain their side of the claim, what they want to happen and the possibility of a compromise. Mediation is not for every situation; it must be agreed by all parties before any plans can be made.  The facilitator is responsible for understanding all sides, focusing the meeting on any shared interests and then if successful, bringing the mediation to a mutual conclusion.


What happens if mediation doesn’t work?

Office disputes can create conflict and can unintentionally form alliances. Employees caught up in disputes can often suffer from stress related illnesses and may need to take sick leave to recover.  Disputes are distracting and can lower productivity and morale and if not dealt with appropriately can lead to expensive Employment Tribunal claims. If informal resolution doesn’t work, what is the next step?

An employee has the right to raise a grievance with their employer if they feel dissatisfied at work either with the actions of a fellow colleague or their terms and condition of employment.  A grievance procedure should be clearly laid out in your HR policies – if you require help with this please contact us. The grievance process can involve a series of meetings where the issue/claim is raised and then investigated along with any evidence that needs to be presented.  The formal stages of the process usually results in a meeting where all the evidence is considered and a decision is made by the employer.  This may or may not be in favour of the employee raising the claim.  When not in favour the employee may have grounds to appeal the decision.  After the appeal meeting, a letter should be sent outlining the final decision.  At this stage the decision is final and the only recourse for the employee if they are still not happy with the outcome is to take it to an Employment Tribunal.

This type of procedure is one of the most common we deal with regularly. We have a variety of different clients who have experienced employees in conflict with each other.  A recent case we dealt with was between two managers in a retirement home. The managers couldn’t work together effectively, which in turn was damaging their relationship and other staff had raised serious concerns with management. Informal meetings and mediation unfortunately hadn’t worked, and formal grievances were raised. As part of the formal stage of handling these grievances, we were asked by our client to investigate these allegations and make appropriate recommendations.   Harassment, victimisation and favouritism were only some of the allegations we were presented with.  Unfair treatment throughout the workforce and breach of procedures were also mentioned which needed to be dealt with very quickly.  We carried out meetings over the course of 3 days and interviewed all relevant employees to ensure that we had all of the facts available to us to be able to give a fair and honest account of the situation. There was also some behind the scenes research to provide other evidence for the allegations, such as; time sheets, social media activity and payroll records.

Following the investigation; a full report was presented to the client confirming the evidence and the next steps we would recommend. In this situation further mediation between the managers (agreed on both sides after a lot of persuading) was suggested to rebuild their relationship and allow them to work together going forward. This frank and honest discussion allowed both parties to voice their opinions and fears and formalise a plan for working together which incorporated compromise on both sides. This in turn, allowed the formal grievances to be resolved.

HR Elite are here to help you through the entire dispute process. We understand they can be time consuming, costly and worrisome.  Please give us a call if you are experiencing any employee conflict and we can coach you through this difficult process. Please call us for a chat on 01206 700 690.

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