ICMF News Archive
Bullying or Strong Management?
Bullying has been firmly in the headlines recently, with allegations flying around Westminster that Prime Minister Gordon Brown is a bully to his staff. Whether the allegations are true or not, the question of when 'strong management' crosses the line and becomes 'bullying' is an open question, as our current survey reveals. Read the results of the survey so far by clicking here Bullying or Strong Management? or take the survey here Take the Survey.
Our recent article Bullying or Strong Management? also considers the difficulty of resolving differences in opinion of what is 'bullying' and what is just 'strong management'. Join the debate - share your views. Updated: 23rd February 2010
Where There’s A Will.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way - or at least that’s how the old cliché goes. However, resolving disputes effectively is not just a matter of each party wanting to find a happy ending. In this brief article, Clive Johnson and Jackie Keddy consider how to ramp up the chance for ADR to succeed, even when all parties seem ready to give the process a fair chance to work. Read More.
Cutting To The Chase.
We’ve all faced the problem - how to broach a tough issue with a member of staff which has to be addressed. A simple approach can help avoid embarrassing false starts to say what you want to say. Whether it’s telling a colleague that it’s time they thought of buying a new pair of shoes or terminating a contract, such moments are rarely comfortable for anyone.
However, delaying or skirting around an issue leave no-one feeling satisfied, and an issue which still needs to be tackled. Whilst discretion is always needed to judge when and how to broach an issue, it’s often the case that a direct approach is best: getting to the point, with a clear explanation of what has prompted it and a proposal for what might follow (usually allowing reasonable time for the message to be digested).
It’s nearly always the case that individuals when know when they are about to be dealt a challenge, whilst procrastination simply intensifies the discomfort for delivering the potentially ‘bad news’. One simple approach which might be used as a rough structure by front-line managers when facing such conversations is ‘SAW’.
Cutting To The Chase: ‘SAW’
Situation statement (summary of situation)
Action or assessment statement, giving supporting evidence (what needs to happen/or what will happen- consequences spelled out time)
Wrap up (clarify, ensure all is clear, wrap up the conversation).
Example dialogue (abbreviated):
Manager: I’m going to do some very straight talking and cut to the chase. We have spoken before about your lack of respect and attitude towards me before have we not?
Subject: Yes, but you are imagining it, I say what I think.
Manager: After we met last time, you agreed to support and work with me, that is repeatedly not happening. For example... [cite examples].
Subject: These are just isolated examples.
ACTION and ASSESSMENT
Manager: I don’t agree, this is not a satisfactory way for us to continue to work together. In future, I cannot be exposed in the way you’ve left me until now. You can either choose to work with me on this basis or not, but I need to know either way.
Subject: I enjoy working here and get on with everyone.
Manager: Have I made it clear why I’ve come to this decision?
Subject: I think so.
Manager: Good. Then can we agree a new way forward, so that i will not have to speak to you about this particular issue again?
Subject: Yes, okay.
Please share your experiences when facing such conversations, as well as any alternative thoughts do you have on this topic. Our bulletin board will be put live shortly.
Up to 10 million parents can now ask employers for flexible working
Parents with older children can now ask employers for flexible work arrangements, rather than just those with children under six or disabled children aged up to 18.
The extension means that around 10 million parents are now entitled to request flexible working.
Responding to the recommendations of an independent review, the UK government said that the move resulted from a desire to help families better balance work and home lives.
Minister for Women and Equality, Harriet Harman, said that mothers often "tear their hair out" while bringing up children and trying to earn a living. She continued: "Children don't stop needing their parents' time when they reach their sixth birthday. As any parent knows, older children going through the teenage years need just as much support and guidance."
Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of the campaign group Working Families, was keen to encourage men to take up the offer, saying that she believed this would help build stronger families. She continued: "The conflict that often seems to exist between family and work is so unnecessary and counterproductive”.
The move was backed by the Confederation of British Industry, although recognising that firms may find it difficult to grant requests for flexible working during the recession. However, Trades Union Congress General Secretary Brendan Barber said that "Companies whose workers enjoy the benefits of flexible working are likely to feel less stressed and less anxious about balancing their lives at home and work, which means they are more committed and productive while at work."
Social Isolation Linked to Aggression
People who feel socially isolated are more likely to see the actions of others as hostile and are more likely to act aggressively toward others, a new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reveals. Researchers at the University of Kentucky believe that their findings may help explain why social exclusion is often linked with aggression.
"While not everyone who feels rejected reacts violently, we found they tend to act out aggressively in other ways. We wanted to explain psychologically why this happens," said C. Nathan DeWall, author of the report.
He continued: "Excluded people see the world through blood-coloured glasses, and it is our hope that this research can lead to a better understanding of why rejection causes aggression and what we can do to prevent such unwanted and harmful behaviour."
The Kentucky study focused on College Students, however the findings would seem to also be relevant for those who are teased, ostracised or otherwise isolated in the workplace.
Law Lords appeal fails for ex-prisoners
Law Lords have ruled that a homeless charity did not break anti-discrimination laws when it refused employing two former prisoners.
The former Republican prisoners were denied jobs at Simon Community hostels in Belfast and Newry.
Their complaint of being unlawfully discriminated against on the grounds of their political opinion was rejected by the law lords, who upheld the Charity’s decision was made out of an over-riding concern for the care of its residents.
The Simon Community argued that employing the men might lead to an unacceptable risk to the residents because of their violent past and the contacts they had had with terrorist organisations.
The Law Lords stated that this decision did not represent political discrimination.
The mens’ appeal had been supported by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, whose Chief Commissioner Bob Collins said that the Commission “has argued that the law should adopt a sensible balance between assisting in the rehabilitation process for ex-offenders and maintaining public safety."
The case had previously been rejected by a Fair Employment Tribunal and by the Court of Appeal.
UK Government Makes Good On Its ADR Pledge
The Ministry of Justice reports that the UK Government has stepped up its use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) over the past year, seeing a corresponding increase in the proportion of settlements reached. Government departments used ADR in 374 cases last year, 72% of which resulted in settlement, compared with 311 cases in the preceding year, 68% of which were settled. Estimates put a saving of £26.3m resulting from the use of ADR.
Full details can be downloaded from the Ministry of Justice's website, Read More here.
Recession prompts large jump in unfair dismissal cases
The annual report published by Acas this summer reveals that the recession has stimulated a 22% increase in unfair dismissal conciliation cases, whilst close to a 75% increase has been seen amongst those seeking redundancy advice.
The increases are have occurred in contrast with decreases in other recent years. Acas received 55,000 cases which involved a claim for unfair dismissal this year, a rise of over 10,000. Ed Sweeney, the Chair of Acas commented: "The figures in this report underline the strain that businesses and individuals have had to face in the last year.
Our help-line – which acts as a barometer for the state of the UK workplace – has seen a huge rise in demand for advice on redundancies. In the face of these challenges, our focus has been on getting the right advice to businesses and employees so that they can ultimately save time, money and stress."
He continued: "We are confident that the new guidelines we implemented on dealing with dispute resolution and workplace conflict will have a positive impact over the next year. This will encourage employers and employees to resolve workplace problems early on, to prevent costly and stressful employment tribunals." ACAS’s annual report can be downloaded here. Read More
ICMF Website and News Bulletin Launched.
It’s been a long time coming, but we’re placed to announce that the ICMF website will be up and running very soon, pending a few final ‘tweaks’.
The site will include a full-featured bulletin board, knowledge base, collected white papers and more. A holding page will remain on-line at www.ecmf.co.uk until the new site goes live. At the same time, we’ve launched this new, regular bulletin to keep you up to date with what’s happening in the Forum and within the world of conflict management.
The Meeting Place.
We are a forum, which might be thought of as a ‘meeting place’ for anyone who shares an interest in managing conflict at work, and offer several ways to share your thoughts.
As a non-hierarchical, collaborative and not-for-profit organisation, our intention is to provide a space for anyone to share thoughts and insights, anonymously if preferred. Please get involved by offering white papers for the website, suggested contributions for events, ideas sharing via our bulletin board and letting us know your news items and editorial pieces for this bulletin!
To get the forum moving, Jackie and Clive have worked together to launch the website, kick-start our initial events and create the news bulletin, but we welcome others to get involved! Please call us on 01273 326822 if you’d like to be involved.
Whilst at an early stage and open for member feedback, we felt that it is important to establish an ethical code for the forum, and in particular to define a privacy code to protect members and contributors’ contact information. Our suggestion, and the code we are currently committed to is shown here. As with everything, these are open for member feedback.
Join us for our next workshop in London. We’re sorry to be behind with scheduling our next event, originally planned for September. Excuses aside, we’ve now fixed a date in the diary for our next workshop in London, on 13th January.
Yes, this is a little way away, but having missed the post-summer ‘window’ and knowing how most attendees are likely to want a month or two to plan diary dates, we thought that a fresh start to the new year would be better than trying to fit in a date before the Christmas rush!
On the agenda for the session is an illuminating talk on the role of ACAS, and - based on feedback from our inaugural event - we’re planning more of a learning/workshop approach to the session next time. In response to feedback following our inaugural event, we plan more of a learning and practical workshop focus, rather than a series of presentations as before. Expect to be informed, excited and inspired!
Call Clive or Jackie for more information on 01273 326822 or drop us an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Swimming With Dolphins.
We’ve designed a new logo, but why the dolphins?
You might have noticed that we’ve suggested a logo for the Forum, featuring a pair of dolphins. Those of you who attended our inaugural event in April too might recall that a few images of these wonderful creature also featured in some of the back-drop. But why choose dolphins as a symbol for managing conflict, much as we might admire them as social animals?
A reason is found in considering an anecdote told by Fletcher Peacock, the communication specialist and student of the man who has been dubbed the ‘Einstein of Communication’, Milton Erickson. Peacock tells a true story of an experiment at San Diego zoo some years ago.
A school of sharks and pod of dolphins were introduced to the same pool. The dolphins initially attempted to befriend the sharks to engage in play, however were swiftly rebuffed, with one or two being inflicted wounds in the process. Quickly, the two species could be distinguished by their motivations, although the dolphin’s behaviour remained co-operative.
Next a rather strange thing happened: the sharks began to turn on each other, not one being able to display social or collaborative behaviour, leading to inevitable attacks and kills. The dolphins continued to invite friendly contact, however the ever fewer sharks remained locked in combat amongst themselves. Finally just one shark remained - whereupon the dolphins surrendered their friendly stance to move in for the kill.
A little lighter insight into the mind of the dolphin is offered by Douglas Adams in his cult novel ‘The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy’ - ‘Man has always assumed that he was more intelligent than the dolphins because he had achieved so much - the wheel, New York, wars and so on - whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man - for precisely the same reasons.’
More seriously, the principle that it isn’t necessary to exploit others to be successful is one advocated by the prominent business thinkers Dudley Lynch and Paul L. Kordis in their book ‘Strategy of the Dolphin: Scoring a Win in a Chaotic World.’ We felt this might also be a good principle to adopt for the forum.
Thought Pattern Critiquing. Download this simple tool, designed to help individuals who are embroiled in a dispute think through possible alternatives to their entrenched points of view. Thought_Pattern_Critiquing.
Words of Wisdom.
Socratic Question. Each issue, we’ll aim to include a carefully chosen quotation, tip or question. This issue, we’ve an example of a Socratic Question - the type of question well known to coaches which encourages folks to think!
“If we were to put this to [another person], how do you think they might respond?”
Bullying has been firmly in the headlines recently, with allegations flying around Westminster that Prime Minister Gordon Brown is a bully to his staff. Whether the allegations are true or not, the question of when 'strong management' crosses the line and becomes 'bullying' is an open question, as our current survey reveals.
The ICMF recently launched a survey, inviting perceptions on the prevalence of bullying amongst senior managers and questioning whether there is ever a place for in a style of “strong management” that some would recognise as bullying. The results were revealing. In
The results of the survey show that:
- 30.7% of respondents recognize bullying as a common style amongst senior manager ranks that is regularly displayed, with a further 47.7% saying that
- 79.5% said that they witnessed bullying at all management levels (although around ½ of these commented that this bullying was irregular)
- 56.7% of respondents commented that ‘strong management’ featured in such things as role profiles, personal development plans and training as a necessary quality for achieving great things, or was at least widely accepted as being necessary
- 87% of respondents stated that they thought there was a place for "strong management" in their organization, including direct styles that some might call blunt or aggressive, although a majority of these considered this appropriate only in particular situations, such as when other approaches had failed.
Respondents to the survey also provided wide-ranging feedback, covering topics as diverse as the conditions that seem to prompt increasing ‘bullying’ to the challenges of confronting bullies. To read the full survey results and a summary of feedback themes, please click here: Bullying Survey Outcomes .
Our recent article Bullying or Strong Management? also considers the difficulty of resolving differences in opinion of what is 'bullying' and what is just 'strong management'. Updated: 15th March 2010