Employee conflict can be very disruptive to an organisation. If
not managed appropriately it can end up being very costly, both in
monetary and emotional terms.
Conflict between individuals in a workplace is not an easy
matter for most managers to deal with. It distracts them from
dealing with the core responsibilities of the organisation and in
many cases can be unnerving to even the strongest of managers.
Studies have shown that up to 30% of a manager's time can be
spent dealing with such matters
Intervention in such matters at an early stage is vital if an
effective and lasting resolution is to be achieved. However in many
instances managers tend to hope that the conflict will resolve
itself thus not requiring their intervention.
However managers can avoid all the unpleasantness of dealing
with such matters by engaging an independent accredited mediator
with expertise in resolving workplace conflict. This should occur
as soon as it becomes clear that the conflict exists. In most cases
the conflict is between two individuals but unless dealt with
promptly can spread to other members of staff with all the
disabling affects such behaviour has on the organisation.
It is important for Managers to be aware of the role of the
mediator in dealing with such disputation. Practice standards apply
to accredited mediators and are set out in the Australian National
The Practice Standards describe the purpose of mediation as
being a process to maximise the participants' decision making.
Other important points set out in the standards are:
The mediation process may:
assist the participants to define and clarify the issues
assist participants to communicate and exchange relevant
invite the clarification of issues and disputes to increase
the range of options;
provide opportunities for understanding;
facilitate an awareness of mutual and individual
help the participants generate and evaluate various
promote a focus on the interests and needs of those who may
be subject to, or affected by, the situation and proposed
Mediators do not advise upon, evaluate or determine
disputes. They assist in managing the process of dispute and
conflict resolution whereby the participants agree upon the
outcomes, when appropriate. Mediation is essentially a process that
maximises the self determination of the participants. The principle
of self determination requires that mediation processes be
non-directive as to content.
As soon as the manager becomes aware that conflict exists, the
persons involved should be informed that he/she is aware of the
conflict and that the organisation will be engaging an independent
workplace mediator to assist the parties in resolving the conflict.
An outline of the issues should be provided to the mediator by the
It is preferable that the mediation be conducted away from the
premises in which the parties work. This adds to the independence
of the process and provides privacy for the parties.
There is no set procedure for the conduct of the mediation and
not all mediators conduct their mediations in the same manner.
However it is important that the parties know from the start how
the mediator proposes to conduct the mediation and to obtain the
approval of the parties. It is also important for the mediator to
obtain the confidence of the parties before commencing the
mediation. A friendly chat over a cup of tea or coffee is always a
good start and can greatly assist in gaining their confidence and a
strong indication that the mediator is truly independent. If at the
conclusion of the mediation a resolution has been able to be
achieved, the terms of such agreement should be committed to
writing and signed by the parties to the mediation.
Workplace Solutions at Carroll and O'Dea is able to provide
workplace mediation services through its accredited mediator Mr
Mick Sheils, OAM who received recognition for his work in
industrial relations in the most recent Order of Australia Honours
List. Mr Sheils is a skilled mediator with many years experience in
resolving workplace disputation. He is available at short notice
and can be contacted direct on 02 8226-7338 or by contacting Peter
Punch on 02 9291-7177.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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The High Court ruled that contracts of employment do not automatically include a mutual duty of trust and confidence.
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