Strategically managing complaints and disputes

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Information on how to strategically manage complaints and disputes

What are the different roles in managing complaints and disputes?

The roles of line managers and HR practitioners have blurred over time. Regardless of role, it is important to strategically identify and address the real issue, rather than be reactive to behavioural symptoms.

How can I make informed assessments of issues?

An informed assessment of issues usually involves listening, having an open mind, seeking professional help where required and working systematically through all the options.

What are the main options to resolve issues?

The options to resolve issues vary. The main options are informal discussion, alternative dispute resolution and formal review.

Case study 1: respectful informal discussions

Case outcome: The manager has an informal discussion with the employee about his colleagues' concerns. The manager encourages the employee to be more open with colleagues and to share information about his condition.

Case study 2: alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

Case outcome: ADR helps address individual health, performance and behavioural issues. This can be through team conferencing with facilitators to discuss what has happened, the effects on people and the best way to resolve team issues.

Case study 3: formal review as a statutory requirement

Case outcome: This scenario involves serious allegations of misconduct. ADR or informal resolution is not the appropriate response. This case is more properly dealt with through the agency's procedures for investigating suspected misconduct.

What is the role of HR practitioners in helping complainants make informed choices?

HR practitioners have a role in assisting the complainant to make an informed choice about the options available to them. This includes discussing what is motivating the complainant and what they are seeking to achieve.

What is alternative dispute resolution?

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is an umbrella term for processes in which an impartial person assists those in dispute to resolve the issues between them.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process. It is usually conducted in private and the outcomes are confidential to the parties.

What is workplace conferencing?

Workplace conferencing brings a group of colleagues together with a neutral and qualified facilitator.

What is conciliation and arbitration?

Conciliation is similar to mediation, except the conciliator provides advice on matters and options, but doesn't make determinations. In arbitration parties present evidence and arguments and the arbitrator makes binding decisions.

When and when not to use ADR?

ADR tends to work when parties feel safe and the mediator is skilled, neutral and independent. Where a dispute is serious enough to be considered as a potential Code of Conduct matter, ADR is not appropriate.

So what is the best response?

The best response and intervention depends on the particular circumstances of the situation. The best intervention is quick, fair and transparent and the outcome is sustainable. That is, it balances the interests of all parties.