‘Don’t you realise no body in this office respects you?!’ With this killer comment Colin sets the ball rolling for a spiral in relationships with his boss Susan, which could very well lead to an employment tribunal – or will it?
At the Citizens Theatre on Tuesday June 21st Chamber of Commerce participants took a sharp intake of breath as they watched actors verbally slug it out in the offices of a fictional company with a very realistic set of communication problems.
‘Workplace Conflict; How To Avoid Employment Tribunals’ was an innovative half day event that made the most of a fantastic space, Citizens’ Circle Studio. It allowed participants to watch the action play out in real time, ‘goldfish bowl’ style. It was run in partnership with the Chamber and MacRoberts LLP and expertly hosted by Varry McMenemy, Managing Director of Bellcom and Deputy President of the Chamber of Commerce.
This session started with a bang, as actors played out the moment of conflict and then three flashback scenes demonstrating how tensions had grown. Participants then discussed how the main protagonists could have behaved differently to avoid this flashpoint and immediately swung into full scale analysis of the characters and their shortcomings. Almost universally one solution was voiced - better communication.
Charlie Irvine, Chair of the Scottish Mediation Network and a workplace mediator, described some of the psychology behind conflict, the thinking and attitudes which can contribute to its growth and explored a shift in mindset which could contribute to improved working relationships. He outlined the role mediation and negotiation techniques can play in the workplace before handing over to Katy Wedderburn of MacRoberts LLP, a Council Director of the Chamber of Commerce and an Employment Law Specialist accredited by the Law Society of Scotland. Katy spoke about the realities of an employment tribunal and how individuals involved (both real and fictional) could be best prepared, should that be the outcome.
Participants then listened to the thoughts and fears of both characters, before seeing it dawn on them that they must try to resolve some of their difficulties.
The session finished with input from Ian Poad, formerly Head of Employee Relations at British Energy plc (now part of the EDF Group Ltd) and a regular member of the Employment Tribunal panel, as well as an opportunity to ask questions of all the expert contributors.
Positive feedback indicated a successful event; ‘Excellent activity, really bringing the issues to light. So much better than talking about a situation’ commented one participant as they left, with another adding, ‘informative, participative and entertaining. I’d be delighted to see more sessions like this.’
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