Navigating Internal Conflict – The Power of Skilled Mediation for In-House HR Teams

Are you part of an in-house HR team frustrated by the challenges of resolving internal conflicts? If so, you’re not alone.

Internal conflict resolution can hit a snag for various reasons but fear not! Here are some common hurdles and ways to overcome them:

1. Lack of Participation: Sometimes, parties may be reluctant to fully engage in a process to resolve the conflict, hindering progress. Try and encourage open communication and suggest mediation, emphasising the benefits. Remember that participating in mediation is entirely voluntary and no one should be forced into it. I’m always happy to have an informal chat with anyone who is unsure if they want to participate.

2. Imbalance of Power: In certain cases, there may be an imbalance of power between parties, affecting the dynamics when trying to resolve internally. A skilled mediator can mitigate this by creating a safe and unbiased space for all involved however it might make people reluctant to start so reassuring people that it is a safe space will really help.

3. Inadequate Preparation: Insufficient preparation by both parties can impede the effectiveness of any informal internal process. Encouraging parties to come prepared with their concerns and desired outcomes is essential. As a mediator I make sure I am clear on what the issues are, how it has impacted them, what their needs and goals are so I can help facilitate a positive outcome.

4. Lingering Resentment: If conflicts have been ongoing, deep-rooted resentment may persist despite best efforts (another reason why mediation should be a first resort and not a last resort). Regular follow-ups and continued support may be necessary to address any lingering issues. It is sometimes helpful to encourage the parties to share their agreement with a trusted manager, for example in HR, so that they can offer inhouse, onsite support ongoing to ensure their agreement is kept to.

5. Miscommunication: Misunderstandings usually occur during an escalating conflict. Active listening and clear communication can help prevent misinterpretations and facilitate meaningful dialogue. I always find it helpful to summarise at regular intervals to check that we are all clear on what is being discussed.

6. Lack of Closure: Some internal grievance processes may not result in a clear resolution, leaving parties feeling unsatisfied. During mediation, we explore alternative approaches or best-case alternatives to an agreement where these might be appropriate, as well as discussing what the worst-case scenario will be if they don’t reach an agreement.

Recognising these challenges underscores the importance of a seasoned, neutral mediator. Internal processes hold value, but an external mediator can deftly navigate these complexities.

Remember, you don’t have to navigate these choppy waters alone. Let me be your resolution partner. Reach out and I can help!

Would you know what to do if one of your team was experiencing a mental health crisis?

Would you know what to do if one of your team was experiencing a mental health crisis?

It was on Boxing Day a few years ago when I received a call from a line manager.  I was HR Manager at the time for a hotel company. The line manager had been contacted by one of their team who was in a strange city, miles from home, asking them to have them sectioned.

What would you do?

This manager wanted to call the employee’s next of kin, however they had specifically asked them not to.

What would you do?

I don’t think anything can really prepare you for a call like that.  It will always be shocking and you will always be torn by what to do for the best.  Most of us aren’t medical experts, however we do want to help.

The truth is, there is no definitive correct answer, as everyone is different.  However, I can tell you what I advised, and what happened, in the hope that you may feel a little bit more comfortable if you ever receive a similar call.

1.When is a mental health crisis an emergency?

First things first – if there is a danger to life, it IS a medical emergency.  

Encourage the person to either call 999 or get themselves to a hospital.  In this instance, the manager called the employee back and with the help of Google Maps found their way to the nearest hospital.

I would urge against calling an ambulance yourself, unless you are with the person, or you know exactly where they are.  If you can, get them to call themselves.

2. What if it’s not an emergency?

Plenty of people will experience mental distress or feelings of despair but it isn’t life threatening.  If you receive a call or are with someone who is going through this, the best thing you can do is just be there and listen.  You do not have to fix their problems for them (and you probably can’t anyway), but you can just be there for them.  

  • Encourage them to call Samaritans if you can – 116 123.  They are open 365 days of the year – always there to listen.  
  • Encourage them to speak to a family member, a friend, or someone else they trust. 
  • Encourage them to seek professional help, perhaps their own GP or NHS 111.
  • Try not to talk about your own experiences or situation, or what you would do.  Stick to listening, and making it about them and how they are feeling.  In fact, the less you say, the better.

In this instance, the line manager received a few calls from the employee in distress over the course of a few days whilst they were in hospital, and they just listened.

3. Do you call their next of kin?

This is a question I get asked a lot.  People are torn between what their gut is telling them and respecting the wishes of the employee.  It is a tough call.  I can only tell you what I would do. If I have ever been worried about the welfare of an employee, I have always called the next of kin, and it has always been the right thing to do.  Don’t forget that when they provide these details to you at the start of employment, it is for “in the case of an emergency” and isn’t a mental health crisis an emergency?

In this instance, the line manager DID call the next of kin and the family were able to get to the employee and support them.  It was the right thing to do.

4. Look after yourself

Receiving a call from someone in distress can be distressing for you too!  Remember to look after YOU! Find someone trusted to talk to yourself, even if it is just to get the words out. Practice self care yourself and do something that brings you joy.  Remember that you cannot save people, you can’t fix their problems, but you CAN be there, you CAN listen and you CAN encourage them to find their own solutions or help.  That’s enough.

The small print – I am not a medical professional, however I am a Mental Health First Aider and trained Samaritans listening volunteer.  I am sharing with you the benefit of my own experiences of helping people in distress and advising others in my HR life who have found themselves in that situation.  I hope this has helped.

#hr #hrconsulting #mentalhealth #employee #help

Navigating Employee Appeals:  The Crucial Role of an External HR Consultant

What do you do when an employee appeals a decision during a disciplinary process?

Picture this: after a meticulous disciplinary procedure, you’ve made a tough decision to dismiss an employee for gross misconduct. Just when you thought the process was behind you, an appeal lands on your desk.

Appeals are a vital part of the fair process, as stipulated by the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary procedures. However, handling these appeals presents unique challenges, especially for small businesses or those navigating limited internal resources.

Enter the solution: an external HR consultant to oversee the appeal process. Here’s why this can be your smartest move:

  1. Neutral and Objective Perspective: External consultants bring impartiality, ensuring a fair hearing that’s free from internal biases. Their objectivity ensures decisions are based solely on the case’s merits.
  2. Expertise in Employment Law: While internal managers may lack legal expertise, HR consultants offer in-depth knowledge of employment law, ensuring compliance and minimizing legal risks.
  3. Fresh Insights and Experience: Consultants offer diverse HR experience, providing innovative approaches and spotting potential pitfalls that might be overlooked internally.
  4. Reduced Conflict of Interest: Bringing in external consultants alleviates conflicts of interest arising from internal involvement in the dismissal process, ensuring transparency and objectivity.
  5. Confidentiality and Efficiency: Maintaining confidentiality, consultants streamline the process, avoiding delays often caused by internal scheduling conflicts. Their efficiency expedites resolution.
  6. Enhanced Credibility: External oversight enhances the appeal’s credibility, fostering trust among employees and demonstrating a commitment to fair processes.

When an appeal arises, seeking external expertise ensures fairness, compliance, and efficiency. As an experienced HR consultant, I specialize in overseeing appeals. Get in touch today for an informal chat about how I can help you.

What to Do When Faced with Unfair Dismissal Accusations During the Redundancy Process

What to Do When Faced with Unfair Dismissal Accusations During the Redundancy Process

What to Do When Faced with Unfair Dismissal Accusations During the Redundancy Process

Dealing with an employee’s claim of unfair dismissal amidst a redundancy process is a scenario I’ve encountered in my in-house HR manager days as well as in my HR consultancy practice. It’s a question that arises frequently with my clients. Despite meticulous preparation, thorough business cases, and adherence to fair processes, employees might assert, “This isn’t right, it’s an unfair dismissal.”

In my experience, in about 8 out of 10 cases, what they truly mean is, “This just feels unfair.” They’re grappling with the emotional weight of the situation, feeling disillusioned about a decision that seemingly contradicts their hard work and the positive rapport they shared with their employer. Rarely does it signify a belief in genuine unfair dismissal.

So, if faced with this accusation, consider the following five tips:

Clarify the Current Stage: Remind the employee that until a final decision is reached, no dismissal has occurred. This can help them engage more effectively in the consultation process.

Don’t panic: Remember, to successfully defend against a claim of unfair dismissal, employers need to demonstrate a fair reason (like redundancy, which is one of the five fair reasons for dismissal) and that they followed a fair process.  If you know you are doing that, you’re fine.

Educate About the Process: Start by explaining the purpose of each meeting, the overall process, and what both parties can expect. Providing an internal FAQ document or referring to ACAS guidance can be immensely beneficial for their understanding.

Seek Outside Perspective: If you’re uncertain about any aspect, seeking advice, especially from an external source, can be invaluable. It’s an extra layer of assurance that you’re proceeding correctly. I offer a complimentary 30-minute consultation for new clients so you’re always welcome to book in call with me to chat things through.

Embrace the Appeal Process: If the employee raises the accusation post-dismissal, remember, the right to appeal is pivotal. It provides an opportunity for a thorough review and a chance to rectify any missteps. Engaging a neutral third party, like an independent HR consultant, for the appeal is highly advisable.

If you’re feeling uncertain or need support with your redundancy process, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact me at [email protected] or schedule a call at your convenience.

Breaking Down Barriers: Embracing Mediation for Effective Conflict Resolution

Breaking Down Barriers: Embracing Mediation for Effective Conflict Resolution

As a workplace mediator, I have countless conversations with managers and in-house HR teams who confide in me about the conflicts they are facing. Despite offering to resolve these conflicts in just one day, I often find that something holds them back from engaging my services. In this blog post, I explore the potential barriers that prevent HR teams from embracing mediation and highlight the transformative benefits of this constructive conflict resolution tool.

  • Lack of Awareness: One of the primary reasons HR teams might hesitate to use mediation is a lack of awareness about its benefits. The mediation process offers a safe and confidential space for parties to express their concerns and work towards mutually agreeable solutions. By educating HR teams about the positive outcomes mediation can achieve, we can help them make more informed choices when resolving workplace conflicts rather than just reaching for that trusty old Grievance policy.
  • Internal Resource Constraints: In-house HR teams often juggle multiple responsibilities, and conflict resolution may not be their sole focus. Limited time and resources might lead them to prioritize other tasks, inadvertently delaying the resolution of conflicts. However, understanding that early intervention can prevent issues from escalating will help HR teams recognize the value of engaging a mediator promptly.  If you let things fester, things will invariably get worse, leading to lost productivity, low morale and even sickness absence.
  • Misconceptions about Mediation: Misunderstandings about mediation can also hinder its adoption. Some may believe that mediation is only suitable for severe conflicts or that it might exacerbate the situation. It’s crucial to debunk these myths and showcase how mediation fosters open communication and facilitates mutually beneficial resolutions.  Mediation has a 95%+ success rate.
  • Attempting Informal Resolution: While informal approaches like counselling or direct discussions can be useful for minor issues, they may not suffice for more complex conflicts. HR teams may initially opt for these methods, hoping the problem will resolve itself, or even worse, line managers go for the “knock their heads together” tactic that seldom works. However, acknowledging when a conflict requires professional mediation can lead to more successful outcomes.
  • Fear of Escalation: Involving an external mediator may trigger concerns about escalating the conflict or making it appear more serious than it is. HR teams might hesitate to involve outsiders in internal matters. However, experienced mediators are skilled at creating a neutral environment and guiding parties towards constructive dialogue.
  • Internal Power Dynamics: Conflicts involving senior management or executives may create power imbalances that affect the mediation process. HR teams may worry about navigating such complexities, but addressing power dynamics is an essential part of a mediator’s role, leading to fair and equitable resolutions.
  • Previous Unsuccessful Experiences: Past unsuccessful attempts at mediation might make HR teams skeptical about its effectiveness. However, every conflict is unique, and the success of mediation depends on various factors, including the mediator’s expertise and the parties’ willingness to engage constructively.
  • Uncertainty About Mediator Selection: Selecting the right mediator can be daunting for HR teams, as different conflicts may require different approaches. Providing guidance on choosing a skilled mediator who aligns with the organization’s needs can alleviate this uncertainty.

In conclusion, as a workplace mediator, I believe that addressing these potential barriers is essential for promoting effective conflict resolution. By raising awareness, dispelling misconceptions, and demonstrating the transformative benefits of mediation, I can empower in-house HR teams to embrace this valuable tool. Early intervention, open communication, and skilled mediation can foster a positive and harmonious work environment, ultimately leading to greater organizational success. At Mayday HR, I am determined to break down the barriers and create a workplace culture that values constructive conflict resolution.

I am always keen to chat to people informally to explore if mediation is right for them. If you would like to book in a call, contact me on [email protected] or use the Get in Touch button.