DEALING WITH DIFFICULT
IR situations can be like live ticking bombs and can explode in your face if not tackled with great care.
The important features are that they are usually sudden (unlike planned agitations), incendiary in nature, highly charged with volatile emotions, and can turn explosively violent at the drop of a hat.
The trigger for the situation can be almost anything, perhaps as simple as an ‘absent marking’ of an influential employee, or an accident involving one or more employees. But the crowd can swell with alarming rapidity, often leading to an intractable IR situation.
The difficulties involved in such IR situations are as follows:
• Identifying a leader to deal with.
• Preventing a volcanic type eruption.
• Finding out the real cause or the ‘trigger’.
• Making them calm enough to bring them to the negotiation table.
• Avoiding a horizontal escalation towards other, unsettled issues.
• Often, especially in the case of an organization with many divisions, an union leader could be deliberately planted from another unrelated division to avoid recognition or since the guy you are familiar with may find it difficult/embarrassing to take a tough stand.
If an union election is due soon, the issue could assume political overtones and evade quick resolution.
RESOLUTION THROUGH NEGOTIATIONS
Ashleigh Brilliant, a British writer said: (of any situation)
THE DEFUSAL PROCESS
SELECT THE EXPERT
The person/s selected to deal with/defuse such situations should necessarily be:
• A person of high Integrity reputed for fairness and unprejudiced behavior.
• A calm person with tremendous patience who can bravely face very aggressive behavior.
• A person with good communication skills and high E.I.
Preferably a senior with many years of experience and known well to the employees.
OBJECTIVE OF THE DEFUSAL EXPERT
THE PERSONNEL DEPUTED TO FACE THE IR SITUATION ARE OFTEN LIKE FIRST-AID ADMINISTRATORS:
• THEIR JOB IS TO CONTAIN THE SITUATION AND PREVENT A CONFLAGRATION.
MANY A TIME, DETAILED, FORMAL NEGOTIATIONS MAY BE REQUIRED (MAYBE AT A HIGHER LEVEL) TO SETTLE THE PRICKLY ISSUE.
IMPORTANT TIPS FOR THE DEFUSER.
• NEVER GO ALONE TO DEAL WITH SUCH SITUATIONS-HAVE AT LEAST ONE OR TWO RELIABLE COLLEAGUES WITH YOU.
• BRACE YOURSELF TO BE AT THE RECEIVING END OF ANGRY AND EVEN ABUSIVE WORDS. REMIND YOURSELF IT IS SELDOM AIMED AT YOU PERSONALLY.
• KEEP A MOBILE PHONE HANDY AND ASK FOR QUICK RESPONSE BACK-UPS TO BE AVAILABLE.
• Do not ever try light banter or jokes till the surcharged atmosphere is relaxed, even if you spot a friend or acquaintance in their midst..
• Do not argue though you may feel they are wrong.
• Do not make obvious attempts to divide and rule.
• Avoid a one-to one discussion in a closed room even though you are tempted to escape the mob. At least have one (preferably more) representative from each side. Else, you could be accused of using bad language or assaulting…or the other party may actually get away with assault.
• Never make fun, even if some ridiculous statement is made.
• Never take it personally, unless there is some deliberate malafide intention.
• And finally, there is no ‘one size fits all’ type of solution. Every situation has to be dealt with after quickly assessing the ground realities prevailing at that time.
SOME KEY PHRASES THAT COULD HELP
• “I/We do understand your anger.”
• “Let’s discuss this right away.”
• “I/We request you to tell with whom to discuss this issue.”
• “I/We have come to hear you out fully. Please allow us to listen to the problem carefully.”
• “You may rest assured that your points/sentiments will be conveyed promptly to Management.”
VITAL POINTS ON BODY LANGUAGE:
DO NOT GRIN AS FAR AS POSSIBLE
NEVER POINT A FINGER/S AT THE MOB, EVEN IN GOOD INTENTION.
NEVER MAKE/SHAKE A FIST WHILE TALKING.
DO NOT THUMP THE TABLE INE EXCITEMENT WHILE MAKING A POINT.
DO NOT FROWN OR OTHERWISE SHOW YOUR IMPATIENCE OR IRRITATION.
BOTH HANDS VERTICALLY LIFTED UP WITH PALM OUTWARDS, AND MOVING TO AND FRO IN A PACIFYING MANNER MAY SOOTHE FEELINGS.
• PRESENTING A SERIOUS LOOK WITH A HAND CUPPING THE CHIN THOUGHTFULLY WOULD HELP TO CONVEY THAT THEY ARE BEING LISTENED TO.
• If the gathering is re-assured and is in a mood to relent, you may now relax and smile at them and even shake hands.
• Ask your colleague/assistant to record the vital points for communication to higher Management.
• If the crowd is unconvinced and getting more restive even after a reasonable time at negotiations, call for help before the situation goes out of hand, and beat a dignified retreat if required.