Ten million reasons for alternative dispute resolution

Who can say where the truth really lies? 

But the complaint was subjected to the full rigour of due process.  

There was an investigation, admittedly which found that allegations of wrongdoing were unfounded. Carried out by a solicitor. And yet a combination of circumstances resulted in the respondent (I nearly said victim) ending up on the receiving end of a €10 million payout…………for now. How did they end up where they did. 

What lessons do we learn from this? 

Taking the benign view of this you wonder how the hell it ever got so far. I’m an advocate of full investigations when complainants feel aggrieved. It’s what our culture of fair procedure demands and it is often the precursor to happy and successful outcomes. 

Bit I’m a much greater advocate of the merits of the intervention of a competent mediator to sort these things out some way south of an award of €10 million. The report of the Law reform Commission on ADR gives good examples of amicable settlements reached through a mediation process.

It  may not have worked here, as the proximate cause was a defamation action but we are in the grip of a complaints frenzy where issues, many of them heartfelt grievances are being shunted into a process of quasi legal processes for the want of a bit of, I hesitate to say it, common sense. 

Because what I mean by common sense is management skill in conflict avoidance and resolution that would have better outcomes for both complainant and respondent.  

Add to this a failure to grasp the potential of alternative systems for settling disputes and you can hear the clanging tones of very big cash registers. 

I have had a few recent experiences where managers faced with an underperforming employee reach first for the ‘gun’, i.e. disciplinary procedures rather than face the more challenging task of managing their way through a performance problem. 

Okay, some of these problems are a kiss away from discipline if not today then tomorrow. 

But that is a distance that can be the difference between business getting on with its business or getting into some type of alternative slippery slope where, if €10 million isn’t at the end of the process a wheel barrow full of other inconveniences and costs are lurking!

 This quandary is sometimes expressed as the HR v employment rights dilemma. In reality this is an inadequate definition of the problem and a poor excuse for managers who basically have lost the skill or the will to resolve disputes or manage their way through a small crisis and whose first instinct is to reach, (like the litigious employee) for the procedures document, and their rights under the law. 

Is the ultimate price for inability to resolve (relatively) simple matters now inflated to €10 million? Okay, I know I’m overstating it, but it’s worth thinking about. 

If it is, you should be looking at two things! The people management skills of your managers, and the dispute resolution procedures and resources in your workplace. 

It might save you €10 million, ten grand even……………..! Maybe just ten minutes.

Have a look at the coverage elsewhere on this site of the Law Reform Commission proposals for ADR. We should be screaming for their implementation.

Whst do you think?