Back to the Future – Classic conflict mistakes that organisations make

Posted on Dec 16, 2014 in Conflict Resolution,HR,Latest Articles . 0 Comments.

Classic conflict mistakes organisations make

Sometimes whilst sitting with clients we dream that we could travel in Marty McFly’s DeLorean. You know, travel back through time in that car with the side lifting doors and just tweak things to change the course of history. Not only because it would be super cool (admit it, you too have dreamed about doing it) but because it would provide a lot of insight into how well-meaning management caused or added to conflict when they were making decisions.  We now know the impact and consequences of those well-meaning decisions, if we could just go back and undo those mistakes.  

Seeing as though we do not have a DeLorean at our disposal, as a way to learn from history Tony and I want to share with you the following issues that cause or increase conflict in the workplace, issues that seem to continually crop up. These are the things that organisations and managers wish they could go back and undo:

Promoting great performer without supporting their management development
Promoting great performers and expecting them to be a great manager without giving them the support, training and mindset change to be a manager. This sets high performers up for failure. This is often compounded when they are promoted to lead the team where they were a peer.  In a recent Bullying Investigation Tony conducted, he repeatedly heard commentary such as “We used to work so well together when we were at the same level. Then she got promoted and had no idea about how to run our fortnightly catch-ups or how to set KPIs. She tried to compensate by being a micromanager and use her authority which I hate so I pushed back and just stopped telling her things……..”. Here too there is some tall poppy syndrome that ideally would have been addressed in the early days of new management.

Moving problem people just moves the problem
This is another text book one.  Yet we see it all the time when clients explain “we thought it was a personality clash so we moved him to another manager” or “we knew she wasn’t performing so we moved her into a different area as we thought she’d be more suited to that work”. Or as a recent mediation participant from an educational institution explained to me in preparation “we all knew she was being ‘seconded’ to our team as she had an ‘attitude problem’ but we were just expected to work with her and we did until it all inevitably exploded”.

We now know the impact and consequences of those well-meaning management decisions, if we could just go back and undo those mistakes.

Confused reporting lines

Having multiple reporting lines in your structures. Whilst this is not always problematic, it often creates a political hierarchy and opportunity to avoid accountability or meet commitments as an individual plays the multiple managers off against each other, or the managers do this to the employee.

Policy and practise do not match
Having policies that do not reflect your practises creates unfulfilled expectations. Recently we had a FMCG client who had a “best practise” Flexibility and Respect for Life Balance policy. However, whilst considering putting in a stress claim, an employee explained amongst other things that “I couldn’t even leave 45 minutes early for my son’s end of year concert as my manager often makes comments like this work life balance things for ‘wooses’ and anyone who doesn’t put work first won’t make it in my team”. The disparity between policy and practise is too great and increases the organisational risk.

Pretending performance is important
Declare performance as important but only discuss it once or twice a year. In our Strategic Relationships Workshop for managers we explain this makes it difficult to genuinely performance manage anyone for improvement. Why? Because the mere mention of performance Management in organisations where performance is not regularly and consciously spoken about elicits the response “they are trying to get rid of me”. If performance matters then deal with it… regularly!

Seeing as though we can’t travel back in time with “Doc and Marty” we can at least learn from history and stay away from some of these classic pitfalls.

Swatting Flies
Workplace Conflict is increasing stress claims