Be a meerkat - not an ostrich!

Are you a meercat or an ostrich?

I want to talk about a really obvious issue when it comes to disputes in the workplace, and that's “meerkats and ostriches” - really obvious.


Those of you who know me well will have heard me banging on about this before, but I thought I'd better explain what I'm talking about. When it comes to disputes in the workplace, we can often see that things are just bubbling on the horizon. People are not getting on, teams are not getting on, and if we're really honest with ourselves we can see that something is possibly going to happen in the future.

I see two approaches to this - and the first one (the most prevalent one unfortunately) is what I would class as ostrich management. We know that there are issues between teams or people, but we tend to bury our heads in the sand. We hope it will go away - in my experience very rarely do issues go away. They build, and they build, and they build - and they become a bigger issue. Then it bites you right there - it's coming to bite you on the backside.

So I really wouldn't recommend ostrich management.

What I would recommend is meerkat management. Meerkats - when we see those David Attenborough documentaries on the TV, they're always up on their hind legs, they're looking around, looking out for each other,

but looking for issues on the horizon - as soon as there's an issue they deal with it in their own way. That's what I'd really recommend.

People often ask me how soon can we do mediation? Is it too early for mediation? The answer is - it's never too early.

If you think about the three areas that I often talk about in mediation, and the benefits of mediation. One of them is time. The longer things go on, and the bigger issues get, the more time they take. Grievances often take months - I've seen them take years. Tribunals - at the moment you’d do well to get to a Tribunal within 12 months. So there's a real time element.

Cost is fairly obvious in that if it goes as far as tribunal there are legal costs, etc. But don't forget all the time spent in grievances, the time that employees spend absent, the time they spend in these grievance meetings, the lost productivity for people who are really not very motivated. Cost is a major contribution to why mediation is so important as early as possible.

But this one's the big one - stress. The amount of stress that people go through the longer it takes, the bigger the issue gets, and then the more stressed - people lose sleep. It affects them, it affects their friends, and their family. It really does snowball from a stress perspective.

So they’re the main reasons why I’d really recommend not being an ostrich.

Don't just think that these things are going to go away - when you see them on the horizon deal with them.

If we can help in any way obviously give us a call, but the sooner you can deal with issues in the workplace the easier they’ll be to resolve and the less long-term implications you'll have in the organisation.


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