Disputes, conflicts, quarrels, feuds, disagreements, call them what you may, are headline news right now. Our industrial relations dashboard is flashing red and the levels and ferocity of conflicts and disputes in our workplaces continue to grow and escalate. No organisation is immune from the dreaded grievance procedure being invoked: an allegation of bullying being raised, colleagues feeling harassed and intimidated, employees taking extended time off work due to sickness, a seeming epidemic of mental health issues and productivity levels dropping due to a fissure in a project team.
Many of these are very modern issues arising from an increasingly diverse workplace, a fragmentation of the traditional command and control management systems and a focus on hybrid working. Not to mention digital disruption and the continued impact of the cost of living crisis with austerity 2.0 seemingly already being felt across our public organisations. There is no doubt that these are the toughest of times.
And in the midst of all of this chaos and complexity sits HR. Driven by a desire to create a fair, just, inclusive, sustainable and high performing culture, a transformational culture, HR has the potential to become one of the most strategically important functions of our firms.
However, there is a very significant problem - an elephant in the room if you will. It’s an elephant which HR is still resistant to address and, even after almost 40 years of applying broken, corrosive and damaging procedures to resolve issues at work, many in HR are still mired in complexity, rigidity and a desire to reduce risk. All of which impede HR’s ability to create a purpose driven, values based and person centred workplace.
The very modern problems of 2023 are not the same as the problems of 1993. So why is it that the policies and processes that are used to handle disciplinary issues, grievance issues and performance issues still sound like they were written whilst I sat playing Sonic the Hedgehog on my Sega Megadrive. The world has changed, and HR is resolutely failing to keep up. If it fails for much longer, HR runs the risk of not only failing to embrace the opportunity to become the strategically most important function of the firm, but it could easily become little more than a clerical function with mid-level administrative rights.
If HR wants to move out of the 1990s, it needs to think and act like a disruptor, not an extension of management. HR needs to evolve into a truly independent people and culture function driven by a desire to be ambitious, courageous, fair and just.
What better way to express this new sense of purpose than for HR to rid the workplace of the corrosive, destructive, damaging, adversarial and reductive HR processes that have undermined working relations for too long. To thrive, HR needs to throw off the shackles of retribution and embrace a transformative model of justice which brings people together and engenders dialogue, compassion, respect, and resolution.
Ten years ago, at the Law Society in London, I launched my ground-breaking Resolution Framework. Over the past ten years it has been adopted by major banks, public bodies, retailers, and global businesses. This is a proven and award-winning approach for resolving concerns, complaints, conduct and conflicts at work. It is robust, fair, just and it is human. The focus is on resolution rather than retribution and on dialogue rather than dogma. If you work in HR and you are dead serious about being person centred, compassionate, just and fair, I urge you to have a look. You may just wonder why you didn’t join the resolution revolution sooner.
David Liddle is CEO of The TCM Group, an award-winning provider of conflict resolution, culture change and leadership development programmes. He is author of two best stelling books, Managing Conflict and Transformational Culture, both published by Kogan Page.
You can contact David via [email protected]
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