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Monthly News - July 2022

Celebrating First Nation Communities with NAIDOC Week, Australia

& Matariki, Aotearoa New Zealand

Earlier this month we celebrated NAIDOC Week in Australia, where this year’s theme ‘Get Up! Stand up! Show Up!’ asked each of us to actively reflect, participate and integrate lasting changes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within our Australian communities.

Meanwhile in Aotearoa New Zealand, for the first time in Aotearoa's modern history Matariki was observed and officially acknowledged by all New Zealanders as a Public Holiday on 24 June 2022. The Matariki Festival ran from 21 June 2022 – 14 July 2022 and provided an opportunity for all to participate in the following practices as part of festivities:

Matariki Hunga Nui: the people of Matariki come together to honor loved ones who have passed since the last rise of Matariki

Matariki Ahunga Nui: the practice of celebrating Matariki with a wonderful abundance of food as we give thanks for life’s blessings, harvests and teachings of the past year

Matariki Manako Nui: a time of discussion, reflection and planning with a reminder for all to respect, and remain connected to, the natural environment of Aotearoa


Many of you may have encouraged your teams to lead and attend educational workshops and events to develop awareness and understanding of past suffering, celebrate the successes within First Nation communities today and look ahead to what the future holds for initiatives on a local and national scale.


During these moments of reflection and participation, we are reminded to shift our focus to what we can do to promote a collaborative space of diversity, acceptance and unity in the workplace for our First Nation colleagues and rising graduates.

Although NAIDOC week and the official Matariki Festival have now ended, there are many opportunities to continue to celebrate and learn all year round:

Mō Matariki ; NAIDOC Source of images: National NAIDOC Committee; Te Arawhiti - The Office for Crown Māori Relation

 

Managing Conflict & Difficult Conversations

According to Forbes, conflict management is the number one soft skill the workplace needs right now! Data suggests that the typical worker spends nearly three hours every week dealing with some kind of conflict (that is 156 hours a year, 7% of full-time working hours!). Our anecdotal evidence certainly supports this with many more clients reaching out to our consultants for support in resolving workplace conflicts.

The pandemic may play a part in this with managers seemingly under considerable pressures, and individuals feeling overworked and overwhelmed. Existing mental health issues have also been exacerbated from the isolation and uncertainty the pandemic brought with it. Unfortunately, what this highlights is that many managers lack the confidence or skills to address workplace conflict – and often (43% of the time according to a report by Acas) – it is not resolved at all.

Of course, workplace conflict is almost impossible to avoid. When you bring people together within our increasingly complex workplaces from diverse backgrounds, with ranging priorities, working styles and communication preferences roles, you can’t except them to get along ALL the time! However, there are certainly strategies you can put in place to minimise and respond to conflict and reduce the wide-ranging negative impacts it brings – we’re talking decreased productivity, poor work outcomes, turnover, work disruptions, absenteeism, termination, emotional stress (just to name (more than) a few).


If this topic is sounding a little too familiar, here are our top 5 tips for managing conflict in your workplace:


Implement a communication structure that ensures potential conflict situations do not go unnoticed (and therefore unresolved). Ensure you’re approachable and create a safe space in 1-1’s and team meetings for employees to raise their concerns with your early.

Deal promptly and equitably with any conflict that arises (don’t ignore it hoping it will pass – it probably won’t). From what we see, conflict is much easier to solve when it is addressed straight away, and before it escalates when trust has dissolved altogether.

Approach conflict situations with curiosity – don’t try and fill in the gaps yourself. Ask questions to understand what has happened, and why, before you use your assumptions to try and “fix” it.

Create a culture where your entire team (employees, managers, and business owners alike) are responsible for identifying and resolving conflict. Collaboratively workshop and set expectations for the ‘rules of engagement’ when it comes to conflict resolution.

Support your team in understanding their own, and each other’s work preferences and styles, by investing in a behavioural profiling tool such as Extended DISC or the TMS Team Management Profile.

And remember – conflict is too often viewed as negative. Embrace the idea that this societal shift has seen more people speaking up about their concerns. You have the perfect opportunity to support your team to do so in a respectful way and put the effort into finding a solution that may not only resolve the conflict but have other benefits to the workplace too. Good luck!

Source of image: gettheedge.co.uk

 

The Importance of Addressing Mental Health Concerns in the Workplace


In April 2022, a long-standing case was settled in the High Court of Australia, finding that an

employer should have assessed an employee who was showing “evident signs” of mental health issues at work.


The Solicitor in the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions’ specialist sexual offences unit (SSOU) was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of work-related vicarious trauma in February 2012. She sought damages, arguing that the employer failed to prevent her psychiatric injury.

After an appeal at the Supreme Court, and Court of Appeal, the case made its way to the High Court. The Court held that from late 2010 the employee had become vocal about how work was affecting her life (specifically fears for the safety of her children), and by 2011 she was working on more than 25 files (when the desirable workload is a maximum of 20). A further event occurred in August 2011 when conflict erupted between the employee and the manager due to an apparent lateness to work on one occasion. Finally, she requested a transfer in early 2012 which was unsuccessful, and she was eventually dismissed.


High Court justices said that there were “evident signs” the employee was not coping prior to the conflict with her manager, and that there was “genuine emotional distress” indicating a possible work-related psychiatric injury. They further found that failing to enquire into the employee’s welfare during occupational screening meant that the employer breached its duty to the employee.


This case demonstrates the importance of acknowledging and responding to any work-related mental health concerns to uphold an employer’s duty of care. Although you would expect that we have come a long way since 2012, in managing mental health in the workplace, rising psychological injury rates demonstrate that we are still not doing enough. Don’t miss our August newsletter for tips on preventing and managing mental health risks, and the importance of creating psychologically safe workplaces.

Source of image: Shuttershock.com

 

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