Every workplace has the potential for conflict. Some of that conflict is healthy, spurring competition among employees, leading to a better work product. Other conflict is unhealthy and can cost everyone involved in lost production, worsening health, overt or covert sabotage, legal battles and lost jobs. Although not the answers in every situation, mediation and workgroup facilitation can be valuable tools to improve an unhealthy workplace. Upon analysis, the other options don’t stack up well.
How does an employer win the battle to maintain a productive and healthy work environment in the face of conflict? One option is to simply clamp down, stress the rules of the workplace and ignore the roots of the discontent. Things will then get worse. Seeing no other choice, an employee may file suit alleging a hostile work environment. If disciplined, demoted or fired, an employee may file a discrimination complaint. After 18 years as a REDRESS mediator with the U.S. Postal Service, I have handled over 130 of these EEO complaints. I have also facilitated entire workgroups, either before or after things get to the point of actual complaints being filed.
One response by an employer is to defend the suit in court. This typically takes years to come to a conclusion. If the judgment is in favor of the employee, the employer will have borne years of legal fees and then be forced to pay a judgment of perhaps thousands of dollars and possibly calculated back wages. The employee may then be returned to the workplace. If the judgment is in favor of the employer, those same mountainous legal fees will have been paid, minus the judgment. So, in that case, the employer wins, correct? Not really. There are […]