Case Study: JKL Industries Conflict

Case Study:  JKL Industries (Unresolved conflict situation)

Norm Johnston is a service manager and reports to Nicole Bond, who is JKL Industries operations manager.  Norm has worked at JKL Industries for 18 months and during that time has been the recipient of a number of complaints from his team including:

  • mechanics complaining of excessive overtime
  • apprentices left unsupervised
  • inappropriate language in the workplace

Nicole has discussed these issues with Norm but these talks have had little impact on his behaviours. Norm is a top mechanic with years of experience as well as experience in large trucks which will be enormously beneficial in the coming years. Norm feels that he does a good job and that he should be allowed to manage his staff as he sees fit, providing he gets the job done. Nicole is somewhat intimidated by Norm who has demonstrated little respect for her position and adopts an aggressive approach in conflict situations.  The organisation is keen to retain Norm for his skills and experience, but a new issue has arisen which is causing concern.Elisabeth Cheswick, a senior administrative assistant reporting to Norm, has lodged a complaint with the union about unpaid overtime. She claims that Norm promised her time in lieu if she stayed back and came in early to assist during busy times. He told her that if she signed in and out as she normally does, he would arrange the rest. Elisabeth continued to do this over a six month period, often working up to ten hours per week overtime. She kept a personal journal of the hours she worked but nothing was recorded through the payroll system.

After six months, Elisabeth asked for her time in lieu and was told by Norm that it was too busy. Two weeks later, Elisabeth asked again and was told that she was a senior administration assistant and should expect to work extra hours and not just punch a time clock. It was ‘part of the job’ and she should have understood that.  Elisabeth went to Julie, the HR officer who said that there was nothing she could do because there was no information in the payroll records to support Elisabeth’s claims. Elisabeth contacted the union.  The union has requested to speak to you, as the human resources manager, to resolve the conflict and to negotiate a satisfactory outcome.

Managements Skills and Knowledge

The current management team have little understanding of industrial relations matters and have been appointed to their current positions based on their abilities in sales or their technical skills. They have limited understanding of Australian workplace agreements and a tendency to refer any industrial relations problems to the HR officers. This has led to conflict and dissatisfaction within the work teams and is felt to be a contributing factor to the high turnover of staff in some departments. Management tend to be focused on operations and have little understanding of people management, performance management or leadership skills.

The HR officers have experience in understanding and interpreting Enterprise Bargaining Agreements from an administrative perspective. They have limited knowledge of strategic management and have little control over or influence in implementing industrial relations policy. As they report directly to the Division Manager, they are functioning more as administration assistants than as a strategic HR resource.

While JKL Industries has policies and procedures relating to workplace behaviours and values, employees are not provided with written copies of procedures, nor are they trained in values, behaviours or codes of practice. Many employees are confused about their rights and entitlements at work and are not clear on who they should speak to if they have a problem.

Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Plan Template

Background to the Issues <<Provide a brief summary of the issues that have contributed to the conflict situation>>
Outcome desired by the JKL Industries << Describe the outcome that is being sought by JKL Industries>>
Outcomes desired by the participants << Describe the outcomes being sought by Participant 1>>
<< Describe the outcomes being sought by Participant 2>>
<< Describe the outcomes being sought by Participant 3>>
What advice and support of experts will be required and used? << Describe what expert advice may be needed to assist in the conflict resolution – WHO and WHAT advice and support will they give>>
Describe the process that will be used to resolve this conflict << Describe the process that will be used to resolve this particular conflict – list all of the steps you will take and if necessary provide a brief description of why you will complete that step>>
How will the outcomes of this conflict resolution process be documented? << Describe the how the process and the results from this plan will be documented>>
Once an outcome is agreed as a result of the conflict resolution process, how is the outcome going to be implemented? << What EXACTLY is going to be done, WHO is going to do it? And WHEN is it going to be done by>>
What will be done if the participants do not abide by the agreed outcome? << Describe the actions that will be taken if 1 or more of the participants fail to abide with the agreed outcomes>>
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