Showing posts with label workplace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label workplace. Show all posts

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Industrial Relations - Conflict between companies and unions

What is industrial relations? 

An introduction to an area of dispute resolution in the workplace context.
The scenario is all too typical. You’re at a cocktail party and someone asks you about your profession. You tell them that you studied industrial relations and are now working in the area. Your interlocutor gives you the most puzzled look and then proceeds to ask:

“What’s industrial relations?”

Unfortunately, industrial relations is an esoteric term, known only in niche academic and professional circles. Put simply, it is a broad field of inquiry and practice dedicated to all facets of the employment relationship. The field strives to comprehend the experiences of employees and how these experiences are shaped by labor-management relations, human resource management practices, and public policies. It often addresses workplace conflict. They do so to understand how these forces shape outcomes for both employee well-being and organizational performance.

This is not to be confused with human resource management, a field focused mainly on managing people and organizational performance. The field of industrial relations is much larger than HR. According to a book by Bruce Kaufman  on the field’s history in the United Stated, industrial relations arguably originated in the 1920s. Its origins are rooted in two schools, the personnel management and institutional labor economics schools. The former focused on labor problems at the managerial level and the latter emphasized institutional contexts and public policy.

Today, the field of industrial relations in North America looks quite different. There are fewer business schools offering degrees explicitly in the area, and it appears that the field is being eclipsed to some extent by HR and organizational behavior. Nonetheless, the field of industrial relations is still experiencing considerable success. Many prominent programs are being offered by institutions such as Cornell’s ILR School, the University of Toronto’s Centre for Industrial Relations, the University of Montreal’s School of Industrial Relations, and Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations. These Departments are actually engaged in a serious revitalization of the field, placing graduates in prominent business schools across the world who will reinvent the field.

This being said, as a North American, it is important to know that the field of industrial relations is very diverse, and extends beyond the experiences of Anglo-Saxon business and industrial relations departments. Many people studying sociology, economics, political science, and psychology consider themselves to be experts in industrial relations, focusing on aspects of the employment relationship which relate to their respective disciplines.

If we look abroad, we notice that the field of industrial relations has manifested itself differently across different countries and regions. Australian and British business schools are filled with industrial relations scholars. Meanwhile, Continental Europeans study industrial relations but do not associate themselves with the label. And they use a different lexicon to discuss issues pertaining to industrial relations, since their systems are so different. For example, Belgians understand wage-setting differently than we do largely because all Belgian wages are set through negotiations between companies and unions, while the vast majority of wages in Canada and the United States are set independently by the employer.

Having spoken about the degrees offered in industrial relations, what do industrial relations experts do? This is highly related to one’s personal interests and choice of specialization within the degree. Someone interested in labor-management relations may choose to be an expert negotiator and engage in collective bargaining, representing either a union or employer. On the other hand, those interested in human resource management may choose to work for a company, or opt to do consultancy work for private and public sector organizations. There are also those interested in public policy who would opt for a career in government.

This being said, there are many positive reasons to study industrial relations. Many speak of the benefits of getting master’s in industrial relations as an alternative to the now all too common MBA. Additionally, the placement rates of graduates from industrial relations programs are still considerably high and lucrative.

So, if you’ve been reading up until this point, you may be a bit more knowledgeable of what constitutes industrial relations and where the field is currently going. It's quite an interesting, and at times controversial, topic. Many industrial relations experts consider themselves to have dedicated their careers to improving the lives of workers. For this reason, they have a vested interest in the future of industrial relations as a field of inquiry and practice.

Sean, Industrial Relations Blogger

Sean O'Brady is a PhD student at the University of Montreal's School of Industrial Relations specializing in labor relations and the social regulation of economic security. He has worked with various policy teams at the Government of Canada, as well as numerous research initiatives, including his current role as a doctoral researcher with the Interuniversity Research Centre on Globalization and Work (CRIMT). He can be found binge-watching Netflix dramas with his beautiful wife during his off-hours.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Conflict Resolution for Managers: Make conflict management a strategic priority

Conflict Resolution for Managers: How managers can make conflict management a strategic priority

Mediate2go: Conflict Resolution for Managers: Make conflict management a strategic priority

Introduction - Conflict Management in the Workplace

Managers reported spending 18% to 26% of their time dealing with conflict in the workplace (Thomas and Schmidt, 1976). Enormous investment with resources and time are spent dealing with conflict in the workplace. Middle managers are often the frontline and first responders toward attempting to resolve employee conflict. The effects of conflict not only take time from the staff involved, but also contribute to increasing sick days/absence, decreasing morale, creating a negative culture, and impeding efficiency and productivity. Nonetheless, not all conflict in the workplace is negative (see our blog on how conflict is good for business and innovation. Conflict can be productive and promote growth at all levels. Accordingly, conflict can be constructive and resolve a number of issues by producing high quality decisions and result in learning and innovation

To make conflict management a strategic priority, organizational leadership must do some preparation to better inform themselves, and to use the knowledge gained to take action. In order to make conflict management a strategic priority, agencies can do the following.
Mediate2go: Conflict Resolution for Managers: Make conflict management a strategic priority

Steps to make conflict management a strategic priority

Define conflict in the workplace

In order for the workplace to understand conflict; all employees must be conflict literate. Again, not all conflict is bad, and employees must come to an understanding that conflict can be positive and productive. Our blogs about conflict escalation and taking self leadership in conflict explain how to make positive a good thing.

Take Action: 

In the next team meeting, put conflict management as an agenda item for discussion, allocate 5-10 minutes to have a general discussion. A goal for the discussion could be developing a list of negative and positive conflicts in the workplace, and further analyzing what are advantages and disadvantages of conflict in the work place. Depending on the energy of conversation, propose continuing the discussion of conflict management at the next team meeting. Recommend that your team read the blog on conflict management styles.

Investing in conflict management training

There are a number of trainings and personality tests that can be done in the workplace to help inform employees about their conflict management style and personality as it relates to conflict. Generally these assessments have a cost, and following the training, much of the knowledge gained is lost, because managers do not utilize the learning into supervision, appraisals and team meetings. Nevertheless, managers need to take an active role and utilize the learning to identify the employees style of conflict, and to develop a common framework for their team. Ask for the help of a conflict resolution expert, coach or mediator to help integrate conflict management into your organizational processes.

Take Action:  

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) is an assessment tool that can be used to identify the different styles of conflict among staff. The TKI is a self-reported assessment that allows employees to discover whether they are overusing or under using one or more of five conflict- handling modes: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding, and accommodating. By discussing the different conflict styles, employees will begin to frame and define their conflict styles, and relate it to the workplace. Starting with such a framework will help increase knowledge with employees about conflict styles. We’ve developed an easy to read blog with songs to demonstrate each conflict management style.

Note: If your organization has limited funding, contact a mediator or conflict coach in the area who might be able to provide training at a discounted rate.           

Acknowledge and measure on conflict skills:

Managers need to play an active role by identifying, building, and coaching conflict management styles and improved performance with staff. Measurement and indicators are incredibly important to determine growth and opportunity. Managers can utilize assessments, such as TKI to bring to light different conflict-handling modes, and to develop competencies and goals around utilizing the styles. Accountability is important for growth, so the manager should continue to follow through and measure performance. The TKI should be used as a ‘carrot’ as opposed to a ‘stick’. Employees need positive encouragement and coaching/supervision sessions to ensure they are on the right track.

Take Action: 

If the team has gone through a TKI assessment, review individual TKI reports with staff. Engage in a discussion about their thoughts concerning the report, and develop an action plan for growth. The employee must be confident and informed about the items and skills they need to work on. The manager can help develop indicators and goals to measure performance to determine growth. In the event that a TKI assessment is not available, the manager can openly discuss conflict styles in the workplace, and identify general positive or negative challenges that the staff person is facing. Read this blog as a resource.

Making conflict management a strategic priority

In a workplace setting where there is an absence of a positive culture of conflict, it would be difficult for a manager to involve top management to add conflict management as a strategic priority right away. If managers decide to ‘pilot’ a positive conflict culture on their team, there will be positive outcomes and measures that stand out compared to other departments. Making conflict management a goal for a team will result in high performance. Moreover, encouraging and fostering a positive conflict culture that addresses each level of conflict will help contribute to reducing sick days and absenteeism, increase morale, create a vibrant positive culture, and increase efficiency and productivity.  These outcomes will draw attention to the team, and managers will have better evidence for top managers to consider making a conflict management a strategic priority.

Take Action:  

It is important for high performing and positive conflict management teams to lead. Although top management may not initially be receptive to making conflict management a priority, managers have a great opportunity to demonstrate the positive outcomes from their teams that have a strong conflict management approach. Measurement will be an important influencer to making a good argument with top management. In order to ensure that the argument is strong, managers must define conflict on their team, invest in conflict training, acknowledge and measure conflict skills, and make their team stand with their positive outcomes of being a positive conflict team. Check out a list of professionals in your area that may provide conflict resolution training.

Evan - Mediate2go Public Health Blogger

For the past 10 years, Evan Muller-Cheng has worked in a variety of community based and social service settings that ranged from Police Services, Federal and Municipal governments, and non-profits. Evan has a graduate degree from The University of Ottawa in Criminology, and a Master’s of Health Administration at the University of Toronto. Currently, Evan is the Manager of Community Initiatives with Agincourt Community Services Association (ACSA). Specifically, Evan’s portfolio includes overseeing a community centre, food security programming, a Scarborough youth in conflict with the law program, and overseeing over 30 communities based, youth based social enterprise, and a micro grant distribution program. For fun, Evan bikes, cooks and makes everyone smile at ACSA.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Build an Internal Conflict Resolution System - Workplace Conflict

Build an Internal Conflict Resolution System - Workplace Conflict

The principles to create an effective conflict resolution system for your business or organization., Build an effective conflict resolution strategy for your business or organization!

Benefits of Conflict Resolution at Work

Here are some other benefits of conflict resolution, if conflict is effectively addressed in organizations. Also, see our blog about how conflict is good for business.
Also, be sure to see our blog on how conflict can be used to decrease business risk and promote growth within an organization

How to develop a conflict resolution system

So, what can you do to transform conflict into a good thing in your company or organization? Set up an internal conflict resolution system for your organization or business. Here are some tasks and/or principles to keep in mind when developing a system., Build an effective conflict resolution system for your business or organization!

Top 10 tips to build a conflict resolution system

  1. Customization. Customize the system based on organizational and ‘people’ needs.
  2. Self-responsibility. Everyone must take responsibility for their own behaviour and needs. If you have a problem, address it, do not avoid it, unless you believe you can let it go or it will help you resolve the issue in the long run. If something was said that bothered you, find out how to address it effectively. Read about having a constructive confrontation (or discussion) and how to take self-leadership and self-responsibility in conflict resolution.
  3. Leadership Support. Management, HR, and Unions must encourage and support conflict resolution training and encouragement managers and employees to manage conflict in a mutually respectful way. This includes the provision of resources, human, special and financial, in order to ensure that conflict resolution is easy to access for all within the organization. Without leadership support, conflict is likely to escalate and become destructive and hard to fix (how to fix a relationship)
  4. Build Team Cohesion and Trust. Ensure that you encourage all employees and managers to build personal relationships, and integrate this into a weekly agenda of activities. When things do become challenging, individuals will be more likely to have enough Trust to manage these challenges effectively. Trust will also be essential when planning, designing and delivering a program. See our blog on the Definition of Trust and Building Trust.
  5. Participation: Ask for the participation of all stakeholders prior to the development of a plan for the organization.
  6. Problem Solving. Encourage interdisciplinary and interdepartmental problem solving (levels of conflict). If employees and managers are given the opportunity to share concerns and brainstorm on how to resolve conflicts, the organization is more likely to gather critical data to prevent issues from hurting the organization overall. See our blog on the levels of conflict within an organization.
  7. Listening and Feedback Training. Encourage active listening and how to give and receive feedback. If employees and managers are able to effectively listen to one another, they will be empowered to self-resolve many of their issues, often without the help of management and HR. This means more time spent on critical issues. Never underestimate the power of active listening.
  8. Meta-communication. Make it part of your weekly routine to talk about how you communicate, how to improve interpersonal relationships, and how to address potential conflict situations (Top 10 Tips on How to Resolve Conflict).
  9. Self-resolve Conflicts. In addition to training on interpersonal communication, employees and managers must be given the skills to deal with conflict before it becomes an issue. It might entail other types of training or services, such as those related to stress reduction, whereby these might improve one’s ability to better address personal issues that might lead to conflict. It might also encourage activities such as meditation and yoga in the workplace, to help people feel centered and capable of addressing issues in a healthy way. This is also covered in our blog on self-responsibility, managing anger and our self-resolution tool.
  10. Change Agent. Find a mediator, conflict coach and project manager to design, build and implement your conflict resolution system. Be sure to find a mediator with years of experience in workplace conflict resolution to assist in this process. We’ve discussed some of the essential tasks and principles to keep in mind when setting up an internal conflict resolution system. However, they will be able to do a needs assessment to determine the needs of the organization, and recommend how these may be achieved. 

In summary, conflict can be used as a positive force of change in your company or organization if it is addressed effectively. Leave your recommendations and questions on the blog in the comments section below. Also, try using our web app to set up your own system. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Labour Arbitration

Labour Arbitration

Introduction to arbitration 

Arbitration is the most common method of resolving disputes in unionized workplaces, and is called for in collective agreements – the negotiated contract between employees (represented by their union) and employers.  

Arbitration vs mediation

Prior to an arbitration process, parties may attempt to resolve their issues via an informal workplace mediation process. Read about the differences between mediation and arbitration.

Arbitration clauses

These agreements almost always contain sections that call for a third party decision maker (arbitrator) to decide the outcome of unresolved disputes between the parties, so that every little disagreement does not end in a strike or a lock-out.  Where such a provision is not in a collective agreement, the law in most, if not all, jurisdictions in Canada mandates that a section requiring arbitration be deemed to be included in the agreement.  For example, in Ontario, if an agreement does not contain such a provision, the law requires that following clause be deemed to be a part of it:
“Where a difference arises between the parties relating to the interpretation, application or administration of this agreement, including any question as to whether a matter is arbitrable, or where an allegation is made that this agreement has been violated, either of the parties may after exhausting any grievance procedure established by this agreement, notify the other party in writing of its desire to submit the difference or allegation to arbitration…”
 (Labour Relations Act, 1995, SO 1995, c 1, Sch A, s.48(2))

Grievances leading to arbitration

Where an individual employee or the union as a whole believes that the employer has violated the collective agreement, a “grievance” may be filed by the union.  The grievance will state what has been done wrong, and what the complainant believes the remedy should be if the grievance succeeds.  

Arbitration process

Where the dispute is not resolved once the employer has considered the grievance, and depending on the specific process laid out in the collective agreement, the issue will go before an arbitrator to resolve.  The arbitration process is similar to court, with one or more adjudicators hearing the case and determining the outcome.  The union and employer may have lawyers representing them.  The arbitrator(s) may be agreed upon by the parties, or may be appointed by the Minister for labour in that jurisdiction.  Evidence will be provided to the arbitrator(s) to consider, and witnesses will often be called.  

Arbitration proceedings

However, the proceedings are much more informal than in court.  An arbitration will often be held in a boardroom or office, and normal court rules are generally more lax.  An arbitrator will most often release his or her decision must faster than a court would.  Furthermore, given that the parties will likely have had a long history of bargaining together or of prior arbitrations, they may agree to certain aspects of the case without conflict so as to speed up the process, and ask the arbitrator to merely focus on one or more of the most contentious issues.

Binding decision

The decision of the arbitrator will be binding.  While the losing party may appeal the decision in court (called “judicial review”), labour arbitrators are given much leeway for their specialized knowledge in the field, and often the outcome of the arbitration will only be overturned if it is outside the scope of what could be considered a reasonable decision.

Conclusion about labour arbitration

Arbitrations in labour law are extremely common, and this method of dispute resolution has taken immense pressure off of the court system.  Most issues can be solved efficiently and cheaply in this way. 

About the blogger: workplace arbitration

Johanna Willows, Labour Law Blogger

Johanna Willows is a lawyer in Winnipeg, representing unions and individual employees. Johanna received her law degree from the University of Ottawa in 2013. She received several awards upon graduation for her work and extracurriculars in labour, employment, and human rights law, and was recently awarded the Manitoba Bar Association Pro Bono award. 

Conflict Resolution Family - 5 Tips

Conflict Resolution Family - 5 Tips Conflict Resolution Family - 5 Tips to Supportive Communication Introduction to Resolvin...