This is a continuation of the series called "The 25 Measures of Fairness in Workplace Conflict Management Systems."
I have noticed that many workplaces have invested their energies into creating sophisticated conflict management options that end up being underutilized by workplace participants. One of the primary reasons for this is that some options, (like arbitration for example) are impractical for use by workplace participants relying solely on their own devices. Often these options are of little value to those who do not have the proper advice, guidance and advocacy in the use of the system.
The Support Focus measures the advice and advocacy the participants have access to. This Focus is especially important where a rights-based or adjudicative process is built into the system. Workplace participants do not always have the experience or training to properly articulate their interests and views on the conflict in question. Some workplaces designate staff to support participants. This is frequently how an Ombuds office is used in larger workplaces. The Ombuds staff assists workplace participants to bring their conflicts to the table and monitor compliance with decisions. HR may play a role here or the fairness system may call for a self-selection of an “advocate” from the workplace community. Often this is a senior, respected member of the community selected by the participant.
And of course, where there is a unionized workplace, the union plays a central support role for the employee (and HR plays a central support role for managers). In either case, a great deal of resources are devoted to the workplace participant. The union will represent an employee through each stage of the process - providing legal and practical advice, and in fact paying for lawyers in some cases to advocate for the participant.
Where there is no union, a great deal of attention must be paid to this focus. Workplace participants will not raise issues if they are not supported through the process.