Tomorrow is the sixth module of our ER and Engagement Development programme with 14 delegates from four organisations in the UK. We will be focusing on disputes and most importantly, how to rebuild relationships after disputes.
Conflict is part of working life as unions and employers have different perspectives on critical issues. No-one takes strike action on a whim, these are costly decisions, not taken lightly and there will have been opportunities to resolve along the way. Industrial relations is only in the news when disputes escalate but day in, day out, union representatives and managers are resolving problems and reaching agreements. But sometimes, now perhaps, with RPI so high and feelings of unfairness around pay escalating, it feels like agreements are harder to make.
There is usually room for compromise in most disputes. However they are resolved, they generally leave a legacy of bad feeling. As well as looking at what happens in a dispute, we want to focus on what organisations can do to rebuild relationships and learn from disputes. In my experience of working with organisations after disputes, there is always a lot to learn. Were opportunities to resolve the issues thoroughly explored, did communications help or hinder, did critical signals go unnoticed? Disputes can be an opportunity to rebuild IR in a different style with more investment in skills and capability, better meetings, identifying areas for collaboration to engender trust and problem solving.
If you go through a dispute as an organisation, once the dust has settled, take time to review what happened, preferably jointly and use the opportunity to make some positive changes to your IR culture. Its worth the investment in time, resources and commitment.