[Strategy] Does Your Boss Think Addressing Workplace Disputes is Important?

You work in a human resources capacity in an organization and your boss had never shown an interest in progressively resolving the consistent arguments, disputes, disagreements that lead to creating and developing a toxic workplace culture. And you—as the human resource professional—spend days, weeks, months and even years addressing these issues as a regular part of your job function. If this is you, then Conflict-Resolution-as-a-Service products, process and approach may not be for your organization.

One of the consistent pieces of feedback that I receive following a corporate training with supervisors, managers or heads of human resources is that “The people who need to be in this room aren’t in this room.”

My response is always “Well, get them in this room and they can take the training that you just took and we can begin the work of transforming the organization.”

Then, one of three expressions typically crosses the face of the human resources employee: fear, resignation, apathy.

Then they leave the room and I hear from them again in the next year, or through recommendations and referrals that they make to other human resource departments in other organizations.

There are three reasons for the fear, the apathy and the resignation:

  • Organizational cultural responses to arguments, disagreements, and disputes tend to mirror the emotional and psychological responses of the founders/owners. If the owner/founder doesn’t view arguments, disagreements, and disputes as problematic in their own life (or has an avoidance posture rather than a collaboration posture) then there won’t be a change in organizational culture no matter how much HR advocates for one.
  • Lack of organizational interest in addressing issues in the past is often seen as evidence that present and future issues should be addressed in the same way. Human beings have limited attention and energy (i.e. bandwidth) and thus seek out mental, emotional and psychological “shortcuts” to addressing issues as they arise. Past performance is often seen as indicative of future performance, not to mention future outcomes and responses.
  • It is often easier to do nothing because of the “arbitration stance” many individuals in upper management positions default to. The “arbitration stance” happens when an argument, disagreement, or dispute finally rises to the level where upper management is forced to address it. Both the parties in the conflict walk into a meeting separately, they each plead their cases and then a decision in response to the conflict floats out of the black box of the upper management’s office in the form of a meaningless, jargon filled, policy appealing memo. Nobody involved in the arguments, disagreements, and disputes knows what the resolution is, no one understands what the memo means and no one in human resources knows what to do next.

All of the above reasons cause human resources professionals to determine that the upper management (“the boss”) has not shown an interest in Conflict-Resolution-as-as-Service in their organization and never will. Thus leading to acquiring the bare minimum of training (a “nice to have”) and the feedback to the trainer (me) of “The people who need to be in this room aren’t in this room.”

For nimble organizations, where attaining employee-cultural “fit” is more important than making widgets, Conflict-Resolution-as-a-Service is a product whose time has come. For the remaining organizations, the four hour corporate training will remain standard until their organizations change, or go out of business.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: jsorrells@hsconsultingandtraining.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HSConsultingandTraining
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/Sorrells79
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jesansorrells/

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