Why should charities or other caring organisations consider conflict first aid or mediation before grievance or disciplinary procedures?
A grievance procedure may actually intensify conflict and divisions, especially if it is lengthy, complex or inconclusive.
Disciplinary procedures create defensiveness, and even end up in the party starting a grievance procedure.
In small organisations, it is difficult to be impartial and objective.
Both grievance and disciplinary are formal and potentially lengthy processes, taking up considerable amounts of time and resources.
Are there circumstances where you should not consider conflict resolution or mediation first? Read more here
Accountability can be challenging for caring organisations–why?
It grieves me to see organisations which do amazing work live with atmospheres so toxic that the staff and organisations have suffered for years. In one organisation it took two years of work to heal the divide. Yet the staff are invariably kind, compassionate people working for organisations whose mission is worthy.
Ironically, the way the organisation and staff see themselves as “caring” can be one of the reason that they do not address issues early. “Nice” people often find it hard to hold others accountable, so they make allowances and excuses. Organisations change their structure instead of addressing the issues.
In many care organisations and charities, the compassion flows strongly towards clients, too often without limit. Staff and volunteers are so committed to the cause that it becomes their life. They work long hours and don’t take holidays. Their families and own life come second. While this may seem saintly, inevitably it results in breakdown, burnout or conflict. There is is little energy or compassion left over for themselves, families or colleagues. They feel unappreciated so resentment builds, seemingly minor issues cause major upsets. A toxic atmosphere develops and there is a horrendous personal and organisational cost.
Due to the focus on the caring work, there is often a lack of guidance or structure for administration and human resources, with these areas being seen as less important. Staff working in these areas are frequently under resourced and unable to access additional resources and training. When one doesn’t know how to handle an issue, it is usually left until it can no longer be ignored.
When trustees are in conflict, the whole organisation suffers–often terminally. Christine Chui has some suggestions on addressing and avoiding these.
Minimizing the need for formal conflict resolution
We each need to set boundaries, express them clearly and accept that not only is it important to care for clients, but to care for ourselves and each other.
As soon as we start feeling resentful, we need to pause, think about what we need, work out our boundaries and think about what we ourselves can do and options if others cross them, express needs & boundaries, then request help clearly before blaming others for not respecting boundaries and meeting our needs.
If you or your organisation feel it would be helpful to learn more about conflict resolution workshops, early intervention, conflict coaching or mediation, email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a complimentary discussion.