Managers have an important role to play as they are the first point of contact to employees, they also have a difficult job as they need to balance work targets with the welfare of the team but conflict may arise from their team’s demands placed on them. For managers to manage conflict successfully they need some specific skills (Farham, 2000). Managers need to actively listen to their direct reports, although listening forms part of their day to day responsibilities but often they do not listen carefully and sometimes conflicts arise due to misunderstanding of what was said.
Managers need to learn negotiation skills, this is the skill of listening to both sides and assisting them come to a happy conclusion where both sides feel like a win-win situation. An important characteristic for managers to have is empathy, it is important to try and understand both sides of the argument even if they personally do not agree with either side (Taylor and Woodhams, 2016).
Although a manager may make every effort to resolve the issue internally but this is not always successful, so they may seek alternative dispute resolution. There are many organisations that provide this service, ACAS being one of them, and much of the services they offer for free (ACAS, 2019). There are three different types of alternative dispute resolution, they are mediation, arbitration and conciliation. Mediation is where an external mediator liaises with both sides involved in the dispute, this may be on a separate basis but where possible it would be together.
The mediator aims to understand the perspective of both sides, however, they do not make a judgement and does not determine the outcome but rather through asking questions and getting those involved to verbalise their thoughts, they aim to get the two to find their own solutions (Taylor and Woodhams, 2016).
An agreement reached through mediation is not binding but when parties enter into the process it is usually accepted that the agreement will be actioned. Arbitration is when an external arbitrator listens to all arguments and makes a decision, this approach takes decision-making away from the two parties. The parties still have the opportunity to voice their views on what they think the outcome should be during discussions with arbitrator but ultimately it is the arbitrator that makes the decision (Gennard and Judge, 2002).
Again, decisions made through arbitration are not legally binding but when parties enter into process of arbitration they both commit to whatever the outcome would be, if not then arbitration would be a waste of everyone’s time. Conciliation is a method that is between mediation and arbitration. The conciliator meets with both parties and listens to their arguments, they will then meet with the two parties together at some stage during the discussions to encourage and guide them towards an acceptable solution (ACAS, 2019). ACAS operates the Early Conciliation Scheme (ECS), with a few exceptions, all employees that want to bring a claim to the employment tribunals need to first go through the process of ECS.
The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) also provides this service but they mainly focus on resolving collective disputes rather than individuals. The employment tribunal also offers some alternatives to dispute resolution, such as judicial mediation. This is the situation where during a tribunal case the judge feels it could be resolved through mediation and the judge facilitates the mediation and try to come to a settlement agreement. The judge does not give an opinion but simply guides the parties to resolve the issue. However, if the case is not successful the case is heard in the employment tribunals in the usual way but it will be in front of another judge (Gov.uk, 2014).
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