Appendix A: People Matter Survey (PMS) Data

Four of the 11 PMS statements with the lowest percentage agreement related to the ‘reasonable avenue of redress’ employment principle. These statements were:

  • “My manager is sufficiently skilled to resolve grievances.”
  • ” In my organisation there is confidence in the procedures and processes for resolving grievances.”
  • ” The procedures and processes for resolving grievances are well understood in my organisation.”
  • “I am confident that if I lodge a grievance I would not suffer any negative consequences.”

Figure 7: What our employees say

Analysis of employee survey results tell us that:

  • Individuals who experience, or simply witness workplace bullying will be significantly less likely to experience job satisfaction, or a sense of pride in working for their organisation.
  • The same individuals are significantly more likely to think about leaving their current organisation and the Victorian public sector.
  • Fellow workers were significantly more likely to be identified as engaging in bullying behaviours than immediate or more senior managers, or clients/members of the public.

Source: People Matter Survey, Victorian Public Sector Commission, 2008

PMS results also include evidence to support the goal of moving beyond a focus on grievance and mediation processes, to a focus on positive communication:Where employees provided their own additional comments in submitting survey responses, one of the main subjects of negative comments was the avenues of redress principle.

Although formal policies and processes are in place in most cases, the issues seem to be more related to how they actually operate and the outcomes of submitting complaints.

Employees who understood organisational procedures and processes for resolving grievances were significantly more confident in those processes. They were also less concerned about any negative consequences associated with lodging a grievance.

The report recommended staff training or briefings to raise awareness and understanding of grievance processes as a means of improving employee confidence in the application of the avenues of redress principle.

The report also noted that the type of performance feedback received also has a positive impact on employees’ perceptions of the application of the employment principles, particularly in relation to the avenues of redress, and the fair and reasonable treatment principles.

Analysis showed that respondents who received informal feedback on performance expressed more positive opinions on the application of these employment principles than those who received only formal feedback.

Appendix B: Case Study – Building a Business Case for Change

How can staff in an organisation make a persuasive business case for change? How can they show that the organisation will actually save money by spending appropriately on dispute handling processes and conflict management systems?

The following methodology was used by a public education organisation in Victoria as part of the business case for change.

The problems identified

  • Employees were ‘forum shopping’ across multiple areas such as OH&S, Staff Equity, and Employee Relations when they had a concern: this was blurring the issues and processes.
  • Charges of ‘bullying’ were arising from managers’ attempts to discuss role responsibility and accountability.
  • Managers felt under-skilled and inexperienced to address concerns about individual performance, and to manage difficulties in working relations.
  • Significant numbers in the workforce were estimated to suffer a level of psychological distress.
  • Staff preventing conflict were under-resourced compared to those reacting to more developed problems.
  • The potential risk to the organisation and the individual was never quantified or factored into any remedial strategies – except by chance. The true cost of case management (direct and indirect) was hidden.

A Model for Estimating Risk and Cost

In an effort to quantify the financial cost and risk associated with existing conflict handling systems, the organisation used a simple quadrant analytical tool.

Figure A: Analytical tool

Low complexity
high risk
High complexity
high risk
Low complexity
low risk
High complexity
low risk

The quadrants distinguish cases that present a low risk to the organisation, from those that present a high risk (vertical dimension). They also distinguish cases that are relatively simple (and therefore relatively low risk) from those that involve a greater range of issues and are more complex (horizontal dimension).

The result: an estimated cost exposure (risk) of close to five million dollars

The organisation reviewed 90 cases and estimated average cost exposure based on case complexity and the risk of additional potential costs. The elements used to calculate fixed and potential costs are summarised in Figure B.

Figure B: Elements used to calculate fixed and potential administrative costs

Fixed Internal staff time(Budget) cost of external
Potential Litigation Fines
Work Cover premiumsRestorative consulting services

It is important to note that the analysis did not take into account ‘hidden’ costs such as reduced productivity, time lost or staff turnover.

Figure C: Results of analysis (average per case)

Low complexity/high risk
 fixed costs: $28,000
potential cost: $40,000total exposure: $68,00031% of cases (n = 28)38.4% of total exposure (all cases)
high complexity/high riskfixed costs: $55,000potential cost: $72,000total exposure: $127,00024.5% of cases (n = 22)56.3% of total exposure (all cases)
low complexity/low riskfixed costs: $800potential cost: $4,000total exposure: $4,80030% of cases (n = 27)2.7% of total exposure (all cases) high complexity/low risk
fixed costs: $2,000
potential cost: $8,000total exposure: $10,00014.5% of cases (n = 28)2.6% of total exposure (all cases)

Key Changes Following Analysis

The organisation made key changes to address the identified problems as described on page 10 such as ‘forum shopping’, lack of role clarity, inadequate staff numbers to deal with conflict prevention and the like. It was recognised that these issues were not only hindering effective conflict resolution, they were driving associated costs and risks. The following changes were consequently put into place:

  • HR advisers increasing the number of earlier interventions
  • HR advisers developing their skills in conflict resolution methods
  • HR advisers coaching and mentoring disputing parties
  • encouraging self resolution (with support as needed)
  • more interaction and communication between HR ‘areas’
  • extending the pool of external resources for help
  • planning a shift to one consolidated HR unit
  • training and development for managers in constructive communication methods.

Cost Savings

Following the introduction of these changes, the organisation saw a trend away from complex cases. With more effective case management, the organisation estimated a direct (fixed cost) saving of $50,000 per month and an estimated reduction in potential risk of three times that amount.

Appendix C: Specific Attributes of a Conflict Resilient Workplace

The following three tables, draw out specific attributes of the levels in the conflict resilient workplace pyramid.

The foundation level – promoting a culture of communication to help things go right

Attribute Demonstrated by
Collaborative problem solving is integrated into corporate culture Decisions are made by the people directly involved Management does not mandate answers or solutions without consultation People are actively encouraged and supported to resolve their own issues
Constructive communications are promoted People listen and seek to understand before they seek to be understood Constructive criticism is welcomed Staff are trained in communications and conflict resolution Organisation seeks to learn from its mistakes Interest-based (not rights-based) language and behaviour is every day practice
Different styles are accepted and tolerated Relationships between areas are supportive and cooperative
Leaders ‘walk the talk’ They practice open and honest communication They separate the problem from the person They seek early resolution of conflict They champion effective conflict management (and are sincere)
Corporate mission, vision and values are consistent with a conflict management philosophy Organisation has taken steps to ensure its systems and structures will minimise conflict

The middle level – preventing things from going wrong

Attribute Demonstrated by
We do things to address conflict before it escalates Train staff and managers on how to respond appropriately at first instance to complaints and issues Collect feedback about issues Expect interaction between managers and staff (not waiting until performance review time before giving or getting feedback)
An intake assessment (triage) process helps determine the best way to resolve disputes: conflict coaching, mediation, investigation, adjudication or some other approach There is a good understanding of which alternative dispute resolution approaches suit particular issues Cases are referred to a dispute resolution process only once the intake assessment information is analysed and the best process agreed
Organisational culture supports the airing of grievances Conflict can be safely raised; privacy is respected Staff are encouraged to voice concerns and constructive dissent early People feel confident that they will be heard, respected and their concerns acted upon Staff are encouraged to resolve their own issues and are talked through various options Staff are given reasons for decisions about disputes Conflict management is noted as a separate core competency Natural justice and procedural fairness are applied
The right data is collected, analysed and used A cross disciplinary team conducts root cause analysis and makes recommendations to stop issues from recurring This information is shared broadly and used to make decisions – for example, about training needs
Executive management takes an interest in grievances They read reports on conflict, bullying, stress, grievances They discuss grievances at meetings, preferably as standing agenda items

The top level – reacting well when things do go wrong

Attribute Demonstrated by
There is a defined and documented process for responding to workplace grievances There are informal process options to resolve conflict at a local level (these emphasise listening and understanding) There are formal process options for resolving disputes Formal processes are generally not accessed until informal processes have been used There is a multiple entry and coordinated intake assessment system The dispute resolution procedures are organised in a low to high cost sequence and based on a risk assessment process
Employees know how to use the process Employees know how and where to communicate their grievance Options for ascertaining legal rights and addressing underlying interests are available Appeal rights to other organisations are made clear The outcomes of decisions are made clear to employees, particularly including reasons for the decision
Clear roles and responsibilities are allocated and communicated A central coordinator exists for conflict management and reports to senior management In larger organisations, this is a dedicated person or office A senior person in the organisation has overarching responsibility for conflict management (and has direct access to executive management)
Conflict management systems, policies and procedures are consistent with wider organisational practice They are consistent with: 

  • each other
  • policy and legislation
  • industrial provisions and agreements
  • key terms are used consistently