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The institute for employment studies Understanding the drivers of individual disputes and conflicts at work Andrea Broughton ESRC seminar: Understanding.

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Presentation on theme: "The institute for employment studies Understanding the drivers of individual disputes and conflicts at work Andrea Broughton ESRC seminar: Understanding."— Presentation transcript:

1 the institute for employment studies Understanding the drivers of individual disputes and conflicts at work Andrea Broughton ESRC seminar: Understanding individual employment disputes 11 October 2012

2 Understanding the behaviour and decision-making of employees Research carried out by IES in 2011 for BIS based on literature review and interviews with stakeholders and experts. Research aims: what is known about employees behaviour and decision-making, from when a conflict or dispute arises in the workplace, up to the point of making a tribunal claim (if made) understanding what incentivises employees to behave in a particular way what psychological theories of handling disputes in general can contribute to our understanding of behaviour, and whether behaviour is different in, or specific to, employment disputes what are the influences on employees behaviour, including personality and attitudes, and other factors (including the influence of third parties) understanding-behaviour-employees-conflicts-at-work

3 Biases and behavioural influences Attribution bias: where individuals attribute an event to the personality or character of the individual who caused the event, rather than external circumstances. This can result in an angry response Loss aversion: where individuals, when faced with a sure loss, gamble, even if the expected loss from the gamble is larger. Typically following the loss of a job Framing: if an option is presented in terms of a gain, this is likely to lead to risk-averse choices, when compared with framing an option in terms of losses Reactive devaluation: the tendency for individuals involved in a dispute to diminish the attractiveness of an offer or proposed exchange simply because it originated with a perceived opponent

4 Escalating a conflict Conflicts are more likely to escalate if: individuals believe or assume that the other party is responsible there is an unwillingness to back down, due to fear of losing face there is an unwillingness to accept an offer simply because it comes from a perceived opponent (reactive devaluation) individuals feel that they have nothing to lose (for example, those with longer service) (loss aversion) individuals feel that fairness norms have been violated (distributive, procedural and interactional justice). However, if procedural justice is seen to be done, this can overcome other perceived injustices

5 Avoiding escalation Build a culture of trust, empathy and openness within an organisation, based on transparent and open policies and procedures. This could help prevent worries about losing face Workplace conflict handling processes need to be seen to be fair and consistent Encourage communication within organisations Help line managers to be aware of and spot potential clashes between employees Involve a neutral third party, such as a mediator (internal or external), who can vouch for the good faith of offers made by each party. Encourage good relationships across the organisation through bonding activities such as awaydays and other group activities, and a management open door policy

6 Expectations of a tribunal claim Both sides appear to have unrealistic expectations of the outcome of a tribunal case (optimistic overconfidence): almost 70% of claimants and 60% of employers thought that they were likely to be successful only 2 % of claimants and 9% of employers thought that they were not likely to be successful almost half of claimants thought that they would receive a larger award than the final offer Implications for policymakers and practitioners: ensure that good quality advice, internally and externally, is available to potential claimants in order to ensure more realistic expectations review advice and guidance to ensure that it can counter overoptimistic tendencies

7 Influencers Trade unions look to be a positive factor: the rise in ET claims corresponds to a fall in TU membership But the relationship with the union needs to be positive in order to have positive effects on dispute resolution The most common source of advice for claimants is a lawyer Advice and information from friends, family and co-workers tends to increase the likelihood of a claim Advice discounting: where the decision-maker gives more weight to their own opinion relative to that of their adviser. However, when claimants do seek out advice from other sources, they are more likely to follow it where it is: deemed to be credible, ie coming from someone perceived to be more experienced or knowledgeable or with greater age, education and life experience paid for

8 Dealing with conflict: some insights into manager behaviour IES research for Acas into reasons why public sector managers might not use third parties to resolve disputes: Well-developed internal processes and procedures Fear of losing control of or adding complexity to a dispute A view that third party intervention represents a failure (also true for union negotiators)

9 Upcoming topics and issues Use of social media at work: case law now building on this issue Conflicts centre around: Posting of comments/photos on social media sites relating to colleagues/clients/the organisation Excessive use of social media sites during working time ET cases often the result of knee-jerk reactions from employers, leading to dismissal Careful consideration of the issues and maybe changes to policies is advised Workplaces and social networking: the implications for employment relations. Acas research paper 11/11:

10 … thank you

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