Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Justice: One of the Four Pillars of Workplace Fairness

In my research on the topic of workplace conflict management systems, I have uncovered two general schools of thought: one school I will call the Justice school and the other I call the Efficiency school. The Justice school came along very early in the study of workplace conflict management systems. I think it fair to say that justice was the primary motivation of the grievance-arbitration procedure developed for most unionized workplaces. This school featured prominantely in the post-war Western world as the primary factor behind the development of conflict management systems in the workplace. And for non-union workplaces a similar phenomenon existed through what was called the "due process" movement. Human resources professionals sought to emulate some of the conditions of a unionized workplace in non-union workplaces predominately in order to stem the flow of unionization. The theory behind this move was that lack of justice in the workplaces was a precondition for unionization. Therefore to stop a union drive, the workplace should have a system for resolving conflict that had some of the same characteristics. In the US especially this culminated in non-union grievance procedures throughout many workplaces.

The Efficiency school started much later with the introduction "interest-based" negotiations. From IBN came the idea that conflict management structures should contain features that were less aimed at "rights" and more aimed at "interests". The Efficiency school, of course, would not recommend the exclusive use of interest-based techniques for resolving conflict, but sought to integrate interest, rights and power based options. Today, the Justice school and Efficiency school are still alive and well. In every unionized workplace in the Western World one can see examples of Justice style conflict management procedures. And in both union and non-union workplaces there are increasing examples of what is called the Integrated Conflict Management Systems ICMS approach to systems design.

The purpose of this article is to introduce the idea of Justice as one of the four cornerstones of a healthy workplace conflict management system. The other three cornerstones are Efficiency, Engagement and Resources. Subsequent articles will deal with them.

So what is Justice and how is it measured?

The Justice Quotient measures all those concepts that one would find in a normal "rights" based forum for dealing with conflict. When you think of how a court operates, it is primarily concerned with Justice. Extraordinary measures are taken to ensure that participants have the opportunity to present their best case, to hear all the case against them and to have proper advocacy to ensure they know their rights. For the purposes of conflict management systems I have separated Justice into seven components or focuses:

Procedural Fairness

Although I will be describing each of these focuses in greater detail in subsequent articles, for the purpose of understanding the Justice Quotient, I will say that each of these measures are critically important. A Just system:

ensures unlimited access to it;
covers all the actions of employers and employees;
is it is independant from manipulation;
protects and supports its participants;
ensures the right to be heard and to hear the case;
results in enforcable and enforced solutions;
and ensures the legal rights of participants are protected.

Without these components any workplace conflict management system would be considered weak in the Justice Quotient.

When trying to determine whether a workplace conflict management system has a strong Justice Quotient, it is important to ask questions related to the above criteria.

In the next seven installments, I will be describing in great detail each of these components.


T.H. said...

Hi: I'm a substitute teacher in Toronto fighting for fair hiring with our board. Please read some of our blog and leave a comment. Thanks.

T.H. said...

Hi: I'm a substitute teacher in Toronto fighting for fair hiring with our board. Please read some of our blog and leave a comment. Thanks.