Presentation on theme: "Group 159 STAFF SUPPORT MECHANISMS: A number of events occurred during the ‘Mir Kiss’ experiment that highlight the need for effective staff support mechanisms."— Presentation transcript:
Group 159 STAFF SUPPORT MECHANISMS: A number of events occurred during the ‘Mir Kiss’ experiment that highlight the need for effective staff support mechanisms. In chronological order the significant events were: Two Cosmonauts fought with one another to the point where: The walls became blood splattered A colleague felt it prudent to hide all the knives for fear of escalating violence The Russian commander grabbed the female researcher, dragged her out of sight of the cameras and kissed her, aggressively, twice. After being rejected he tried to kiss her again the next morning The international research team requested that the doors between their chambers and the Russian cosmonaut chambers be barred. As a result of these events the international research crew complained to IBMP about the behaviour of the cosmonauts.
Group 159 STAFF SUPPORT MECHANISMS: Response and analysis The response of the Russian Institute to the complaint was, apparently, to take no action. As we have seen in Team Development, their view was that the incidents were part of the experiment and they wanted crew members to solve their personal problems with mature discussion. This response gives rise to a question of perspective: “How would the Russian Institute have reacted if there had been a critical failure in the oxygen supply system in the experimental chambers, to the point where the lives of the crew (international researchers and cosmonauts) were threatened?” Would they: A) Have let the crew work it out form themselves and, if they had failed to find a solution, let them die, on the basis that ‘Mir is an autonomous object, far away from anything’ or, B)Intervene in the overriding interests of the health and safety of the crew and on the basis of their duty of care? Whilst the question remains rhetorical, we hope that the answer would not have been A), for two reasons: Firstly, it would be inhumane, immoral and illegal (in any conscionable jurisdiction) to allow this to occur, even in the pursuit of science and Secondly and more simply, as evidenced by the reaction of the international researchers to the lack of response from the Russian Institute, ‘If we had known …we would not have joined it as subjects’. From this last statement we can start to draw the conclusion that the international researchers had a not unreasonable expectation that their participation in the experiment (organisation) will be underpinned by the basic duty of care that an employer owes to employees, including the prevention of harm; both physical and psychological and support mechanisms, including procedural justice, to resolve issues in the workplace.
Group 159 STAFF SUPPORT MECHANISMS: A balanced perspective The international researchers came from: Austria, Canada and Japan. It is possible that their background experiences of working in their respective countries led them to have expectations in regard to their basic employment protections that were outside the norm in Russia. The international researchers believed that if they raised a genuine and valid concern with the organisational hierarchy in relation to their physical safety, they would be taken seriously and the issues would be taken up and dealt with. It is possible that the Russians reacted in the way that they did because in their experiences and the prevailing employment construct, such issues, regardless of whether they are the subject of a formal complaint, or not, are simply not taken up and dealt with by the organisation hierarchy, or those in positions of authority. Notwithstanding the Russian perspective, for the purposes of promoting sound organisational practices, let us look at the potential reactions of the international researchers to the incidents that occurred and the following of lack of response to their complaints: Potential reactions: Fear for personal safety in the workplace Loss of confidence in Management to respond to and deal with issues Confusion about the attitude of Management to workplace violence and sexual assault Feelings of intimidation Anger towards co-workers, Management and the organisation Loss of self-confidence Confusion over what is right and what is wrong in the workplace These are just some of the potential reactions that the international researchers could have experienced as a result of the way they were treated by the Russian Institute.
Group 159 STAFF SUPPORT MECHANISMS: An alternative path It is hypothesised that if the Russian Institute had adopted some simple, but well proven steps to dealing with the issues highlighted above, they could have prevented the eventual breakdown of the experiment and the acrimonious exchanges that ensued in the public domain. Proscribe and apply a discipline policy. If two employees come to blows in the workplace, it should be dealt with as soon as practicable by Management. By intervening, breaking up the fight and separating the employees, Management would have gone some way to reassuring the other employees that they retained an element of control and order (this would be somewhat diminished by the common knowledge that Management had supplied the alcohol that fuelled the fight in the first place). Implement a grievance procedure. When the international researchers initiated a formal complaint they had an expectation that it would receive proper consideration. A well understood grievance procedure would ensure that all parties understood the process for dealing with a formal complaint and that, regardless of the merits of the complaint, their rights would be protected and that procedural justice would be applied. Provide counselling, or an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Where employees have witnessed violence in the workplace and/or been sexually assaulted it is often more beneficial to the employees concerned to provide independent, professional counselling to assist them, rather than have a Manager try to deal with the employee’s issues. This is because a) most Managers are not skilled to undertake counselling of distressed employees and b) independent counselling allows the issues to be dealt with on their own merits, without any fear of overspill into other areas, such as future promotability, which may occur if a Manager deals directly with a distressed employee.
Group 159 STAFF SUPPORT MECHANISMS: An alternative path Implement a conflict resolution model. Keeping people isolated for long periods of time is stressful. Given that this was a research experiment it might have benefited both the Russian Institute and the crew if they had a chance to explore and learn, rather than just endure. The implementation of a conflict resolution model might have afforded the participants the opportunity to explore and resolve issues before they became toxic. The above practices are often employed by organisations that recognise the importance of having staff support mechanisms in place to: Provide mechanisms to deal with issues before they become problems Resolve issues that do become problems in a well understood and workable framework Reinforce the psychological contract between the organisation and its staff Promote staff well being