It’d be great if we could all get along with everybody, but sadly, we can’t.
You can pick your friends, but you can’t always pick your colleagues, and for that reason, personality clashes in the workplace are inevitable. It’s not uncommon to have one or two people who just don’t seem to get on with the others.
We’ve been brought in to mediate our fair share of employee conflicts in the past couple of months, and while the meetings are slightly uncomfortable for everyone in attendance, they are essential to finding a resolution – you have to be prepared to have the tough conversations.
You can not ignore it.
Here are our pointers to managing conflict between two employees (or even between yourself and an employee):
Employment issues again hit the headlines in the last month with cases that had gone before the Employment Relations Authority (ERA). And again, the learning is the importance of PROCESS when considering terminating an employee.
In Queenstown, a carpenter was awarded $24,500 after being unjustifiably dismissed while in Fiji attending the funeral of a close relative. He was only told his employment had ended when he contacted his employer to see why he hadn’t been paid. It was then that he was told they’d run out of work for him.
A British Airways worker made the news last week after his employment was terminated because he had a ‘man bun’. He argued it was discrimination because females were allowed to wear their hair in that style, and yet because he was a male, he wasn’t.
While the jury is still out on who will win this one, it does raise a good point about company dress codes, and the right way to enforce them.
A company is absolutely entitled to have a dress code to reflect the type and status of the business, but it must be reasonable in the context of the company’s business – you can’t really prevent someone having a specific hair style for no justifiable reason.
Today’s teachers strike got me thinking. At face value, it looks like a group of employees who want a pay increase, have decided to boycott their jobs until they get one. According to mainstream media, the nurses did something similar last month.
In a non-unionised corporate world, striking would never fly.
I don’t know any business that would respond favourably to an employee refusing to do the job they’re employed to do, until they’re paid more money. In fact, this blatant refusal to work may lead to a disciplinary discussion.
But for essential public services that we all depend on, it’s an effective strategy for pay negotiations. Both nurses and teachers are at the mercy of a pay scale system that rewards longevity in the profession, rather than individual performance so their approach to pay negotiations has to reflect this. The professions are also largely unionised, which restricts their ability to discuss pay with their manager.
For those of us in paid employment in a non-unionised workforce, we have to approach pay negotiations differently.
A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to meet with other female business owners as part of a newly forming networking group in Hamilton.
Roadworks meant it took longer to get there than I had anticipated and I battled finding a park in the big smoke, but I made it.
And I had a nice time. The Tank salad was delicious. My boy Otis charmed everyone, and I scored extra brownie points because I happened to be wearing a dress made by Hayley Addison from Addison Clothing who was there too. No better way to show your support of small NZ business than by sporting their wears!
During the catch up, we went around the table and each of the 25 ladies introduced themselves and their business. They rattled off their achievements, future business goals and strategic plans, and all had an impressive resume – it was a group of self-starters who’d forged their way in a predominately male business world.
Almost as an after-thought, they mentioned the fact that they were a mum.
I started eight73 consulting in 2013. It was a month before I became a wife, and 15 months before I became a mum. For that first year, my business was my baby. It was pretty all-consuming, physically and mentally, and the responsibility I felt to keep the business alive was at times intense.
I was torn between spending time developing the business through approaching new potential clients, while also investing in nurturing the partnerships I’d already secured, and of course delivering to the work I had on. There were never enough hours in the day and I constantly felt like I was chasing my tail.
And then, in May 2014, just as my business was really starting to hit its straps with consistent work from strong partnerships I’d developed, and a steady pipeline of referrals, I had a baby, a real baby. A real life human being who’s sole survival depended on me. I had to think and act for Archie all day and all night, on top of running a business.
It can be pretty frustrating when you have a disciplinary matter to resolve and the meeting is persistently postponed because the employee’s chosen support person is unavailable.
What can you do about it? Do you really have to continue rescheduling and allowing time to lag on and on? The simple answer is no. Case law has shown us that while the employee does have the right to choose their own representative, this can not impede the process.
So, if you’re faced with this debacle, the best approach is to outline some options to the employee and put the ball in their court as to which one to choose.
We all know HR can be a real minefield if you’re not sure of the correct process to follow when you suspect an employee is up to no good.
It isn’t clearly documented in legislation, but case law has given us a great framework that should be applied whenever a disciplinary matter rears its head.
Below we have outlined the main steps of a disciplinary process:
The Employment Court recently overturned a 2016 ERA decision, forcing Smiths City to recompensate hundreds of staff for unpaid work meetings to the tune of $1.5M.
The retail chain expected staff to turn up at 8.45am – 15 minutes prior to the official start of their 9:00am shift – for daily sales meetings. Smiths City argued the meetings were unpaid because they varied from store to store, and attendance was not compulsory, but Judge Inglis viewed it differently. She said the meetings were conducted according to a standardised template provided by the company, and although the meetings had an informal tone, the workers were expected to attend and therefore it constituted a work activity and they should be remunerated for them.
The ruling went on to focus on the fact that many of those affected employees were minimum wage earners, who would therefore drop below the minimum wage threshold once the additional time had been taken into account.
It’s a slightly confusing concept to get your head around, but is easier to understand with an example.