Advantages and Limitations of Different Types of Stakeholder Consultation


Focus and workgroups can be excellent at getting information and sharing ideas, however, they can be influenced by bias or a chairperson or brand power. This type of consultation would not be of use in my industry but would be useful for improving some types of products, for example in food and drink products, and marketing material.


Surveys and Opinion Polls

In my role I am responsible for collecting surveys from customers at job completion. This can be an excellent method of measuring overall customer satisfaction, if it is completed in manner which does not make the customer feel obliged to answer a question in a positive manner when they actual had a negative experience i.e. under duress of an employee watching them complete the form. However, when obtained correctly, they can be an excellent method of collecting honest information direct from the shareholder.


Web 2.0 tools events/roadshows

Social media has become an important method for most organisations to communicate directly with customers and obtain feedback. However, organisations must be incredibly careful how they present online as it is very easy to inadvertently insult a person or group by posting information or opinion deemed inappropriate or offensive. It is also very easy for an organisation to quickly consider to be poor if comments and ratings begin to plummet.

Such an example is hotels and Tripadvisor which have been identified as ‘terrible’ by users of the website; 10 years ago, people who have been none the wiser before booking a room. Another example is the way in which the Conservative Party ran their social media campaign at the 2017 General Election which was described by many experts as “shambolic” and “chaotic” and which experts also believe was partly responsible for the party failing to appeal to the younger voter.


Individual meetings/roadshows

Individual meetings and roadshows can be useful in taking information directly to stakeholders – particularly customers – usually to a location where customers are already focused on a sector. Such an example might include my organisation having a stall at the annual contamination expo held at Earls Court annually where thousands of people from the asbestos industry meet. This method is also very useful for brand awareness and gathering information on potential new customers. In addition, new ideas and concepts can be obtained.

Whilst one-on-one meetings don’t generally require a large outlay except for travel expenses, roadshows can be expensive. They usually require at least one day and one employee, and the cost of holding a stall or buying tickets can also be prohibitive. However, this should be considered with the offset of the change to improve a network of people within the same industry.

Risks and Potential Consequences of Inadequate Stakeholder Consultation

Inadequate stakeholder consultation can have negative effects.

When stakeholders feel they are not being consulted or communicated with adequately, it may result in them losing interest or becoming difficult. This can result in a loss of support, and moral, and in turn a failure for the organisation to achieve goals.


Damage to organisational reputation

Customers, employees and shareholders can damage an organisations reputation if they feel that they’re not being consulted correctly. This is because they become disenfranchised with the way the project or organisation is heading. They may withdraw support or begin to talk badly about people within the organisation or the organisation in its entirety. Once an organisations reputation is tarnished, it can take a lot of time and investment to repair the damage.


Lack of stakeholder acceptance

The failure to get stakeholders on-board and to ‘buy in’ to a project risks anything from a simple lack of enthusiasm for a project, to complete withdrawal of funding in more extreme circumstances. It can also result in a breakdown in trust resulting in a lack of collaboration which in turn may result in delays in a project being completed (or a project never reaching its target at all).


Potential negative impact on customer retention and loyalty

It can take many years for an organisation to earn the trust and loyalty of a brand but just a small piece of negative consultation can quickly ruin the relationship. This is why organisations must assess the risks of inadequate stakeholder consultation and ensure that they are meeting the needs and expectations of customers. After all, customers are often the major source of income for any business.

There can be changes in customer expectations and it’s vital that business leaders keep their ears to the ground in respect of changing expectation. For example, the recent move towards reducing plastic packaging. Also, the British consumer moving away from brand loyalty in favour of cheaper prices in the supermarket.


Negative publicity

Negative publicity often has a huge impact on the relationship between stakeholders and organisations. The recent controversy with accusations of sexual exploitation within Oxfam saw the organisation lose over 7,000 donors within days of the accusations being announced (, 2018). There are many other well documented examples. As a result, customers and supporters of brands can be lost and irreparable damage caused.

In addition, sponsorship and brand association can also be lost. Such an example includes the cyclist Lance Armstrong who lost sponsorship from Trek, Easton-Bell Sports, 24-Hour Fitness, Nike, Anheuser-Busch, RadioShack, Oakley, Honey Stinger, FRS; an estimated $150 million in revenue.


Conflicting views

A simple example here is that shareholders want high profits whilst customers want low prices. These sorts of conflicting views need to be managed to ensure a project or organisation remains on track.

There may be times when managers (or businesses) must make decisions which some stakeholders may not agree with. For example, the shareholders of my company may prefer to by PPE from the cheapest supplier, however, the employees may know from their experience that the cheaper gloves don’t last as long as the slightly more expensive. Not only that, but if the cheaper gloves are difficult to work in the long-term effect could be reduced working speeds and slow down a projects’ competition time.

In another example, it may be that a chain of restaurants decides that its ethical standards state that they will source all their raw coffee from Fairtrade sources. Whilst a decision to purchase the coffee from a cheaper, non-Fairtrade source might reduce the cost of the product it is likely that many customers will be unhappy with the decision and may stop using the chain altogether.

It is therefore important that all stakeholders understand why decisions have been made so that the long-term plan is understood by all; and that managers understand how their decisions can affect to plan.

How Expectation Management and Conflict Resolution Techniques are Applied to Stakeholder Management

At times, managers will experience difficulties dealing with stakeholders such as them not being on board with a new project. Building relationships with stakeholders can be difficult and it’s important that managers understand a range of methods to improve relationships, manage expectations and prevent conflict.

Managing conflict (and applying the correct techniques) will vary depending on whether the conflict is between stakeholders outside of the organisation, inside the organisation or a mix of both inside and outside. As always, good communication is key to insuring all stakeholders understand where a project is and what the next steps to achieve the final goal are.

Where there is conflict between stakeholders, managers need to understand what each party wants, why they want it, what it’s priority is and any assumptions a stakeholder may have made (I.e. analyse needs). Once these are understood, managers can try to look at ways of providing mutual gain for any conflicting sides. This may mean bringing stakeholders together (meeting with them) and looking at ways of reaching an agreement in a face-to-face situation.


In a simpler example, it may be easy to resolve conflict to those in the same stakeholder group by providing the same information in different ways. If two shareholders want to be able read a report in different formats it may be necessary to provide the information in two different styles, or perhaps allow those shareholders to be able to design their own reports in an information system. Is this example neither shareholder is wrong: they have the own interests and managers need to understand this when they approach a project to increase buy-in.

Perhaps the most difficult stakeholders are the passive-aggressive; those who try to influence things behind the scenes, perhaps agree to a direction but then change their mind at sign off; and it’s a good idea to try to identify them early on. These can be difficult to identify but they often display body language which gives them away. They may also be the type of person who agrees in a face-to-face meeting but then later on sends and email which completely contradicts the previously agreed goals. This can stall progress and cause conflict and early engagement and resolution of issues is vital to prevent problems snowballing into bigger issues.


It is important that managers consider that certain stakeholders can be more emotional in relation to a project that others; yet this doesn’t mean they have more influence.

A recent example is the McLaren Formula 1 team. In 2015 the team shareholders and management changed the company decided to take on a powertrain manufacturer, Honda. This, despite most fans being against the move. The result was that McLaren had arguable their two worst seasons on record leaving many fans angry and upset. However, as much as the fans were annoyed by the move the team bosses ultimately felt it was more important to put the requirements of its shareholders and sponsors first. The result was a huge drop in merchandise sales over 2 years (an important revenue stream for McLaren) and a drop in its online membership numbers. Because of pressure, McLaren decided to terminate their contract with Honda early and will switch to the more reliable and tested Renault powertrain in 2018.

Good communication is key to prevent confusion and misunderstandings. It should also be remembered that just because a stakeholder has a grievance with the organisation or a project, this doesn’t necessarily mean that their grievance is justified; all parties have their own interests after all.

Managers also need to be prepared to take responsibility when things don’t go to plan. Passing responsibility unfairly (or refusing to accept due criticism) a guaranteed to result in a lack of trust and damage relationships within the stakeholder group.

Analyse Stakeholder Mapping Technique

Stakeholder mapping technique (commonly referred to as stakeholder analysis) is the process of identifying an organisations internal and externals stakeholders and mapping who interests should be taken into consideration when developing a policy or program. It is also a way of trying to understand how particular stakeholders may be affected by decisions.

Organisations need to manage their relationships with their stakeholders and a failure to do so can result in conflict between the organisations management and their stakeholders. This is particularly important when making important decisions.

A stakeholder mapping matrix allows managers to analyse which stakeholders to attach the most importance to when making a decision classified into four most important categories; those who require minimal effort to keep satisfied, those who must be kept informed, those who must be kept satisfied and the most important (key players). Managers can then break down the stakeholders into the level of interest and power they have in the decision-making process ensuring that they focus their attention on the correct stakeholders for the decision being considered.

Whilst the stakeholder mapping technique is a good way of broadly prioritising the involvement of stakeholders in the decision-making process, it is not a perfect solution. For example, some managers may feel that priority in the process should be given to shareholders. The collapse of large companies such as Carrilion and BHS would appear to demonstrate that focusing attention on satisfying the wrong groups or stakeholders can result in devastating results for the organisation in the long term.

Decision Making Techniques for Operational Planning Decisions

Usefulness of Different Decision Making Techniques for Operational Planning Decisions

If managers are certain of an outcome they may make an instant decision, based on our prior experience, expertise and the predictable outcome; without using any decision-making technique.

However, when a manager lacks perfect information or whenever an information asymmetry exists, risk or uncertainty arises. Under a state of risk, the decision maker has incomplete information about available alternatives but has a good idea of the probability of outcomes for each alternative.[1] It is at this point that a manager would need to decide on the likelihood of an outcome based in his or her experience. This can be a perilous road if the manager lacks experience or fails to recognise a factor which could affect the decision and is a position that the majority of managers are uncomfortable with. Making decisions under risk should be avoided wherever possible and a proven decision making technique employed if possible.

We all make decisions on a daily basis. What cereal should I have for breakfast? Should I walk to work or take the car? Do I want pasta for dinner or a baked potato? So what do we do when decisions are much more serious and need to be based on facts and analysis? Or perhaps when we can’t see the wood for the trees?

Decision Trees are a popular method for making decisions and are used for weighing up to advantages and disadvantages (pros and cons) of a decision based in a number of inputs or factors. Carried our correctly, decision trees cover all options available and result in a range of outcomes. Using this information, managers can better understand the most likely outcome of a decision by evaluating the value of each possible outcome.

Cost benefit analysis can also be employed to assist in making decisions. For example, one of my employees may come up with a great new idea to bring in extra business. However, to do this, he will require a new van at a cost of £20,000. Using cost benefit, we can decide whether the investment of £20,000 is likely to result in a beneficial profit over a reasonable amount of time. Cost benefit analysis is a quick and simple technique that you can use for non-critical financial decisions. Where decisions are mission-critical, or large sums of money are involved, other approaches – such as use of Net Present Values and Internal Rates of Return are often more appropriate.

These techniques aside, whatever decision making technique a manager may decide to use, they can rarely be 100 per cent certain that we are making the right decision. Occasionally variables occur we simply could have expected or predicted. Nevertheless, by utilising the above techniques, managers can certainly increase our chances of making the right decision at the time.


The Purpose of Risk Analyses and Risk Management in Operational Planning

Risk Analyses in Operational Planning

Risk analysis is assessing the probability of something going wrong, whilst at the same time also assessing the possible negative consequences if it does. Risk analysis can help reduce negative effects on an organisation is not completely eradicate them. Failure to conduct risk management can result in a lost of time, money, and status of managers. In more serious cases it can even lead to complete failure of a business.

When analysing risk, we may have to look at one or more factors which can affect the outcome. These might include (but are not limited to):

  • Human – Illness, death, injury, or other loss of a key individual.
  • Operational – Disruption to supplies and operations, loss of access to essential assets, or failures in distribution.
  • Reputational – Loss of customer or employee confidence, or damage to market reputation.
  • Procedural – Failures of accountability, internal systems, or controls, or from fraud.
  • Project – Going over budget, taking too long on key tasks, or experiencing issues with product or service quality.
  • Financial – Business failure, stock market fluctuations, interest rate changes, or non-availability of funding.
  • Technical – Advances in technology, or from technical failure.
  • Natural – Weather, natural disasters, or disease.
  • Political – Changes in tax, public opinion, government policy, or foreign influence.
  • Structural – Dangerous chemicals, poor lighting, falling boxes, or any situation where staff, products, or technology can be harmed.

[2]Credit for above in footnotes


Risk Management in Operational Planning

Once we have analysed and understand possible risks to our operation plan, we can set about managing risks and if possible completely eradicating risk altogether. One example of this is health and safety Risk Assessments which are discussed in more detail in the next section but risk can manifest in many other areas of an organisation including fiscal, reputational, and operational.

Managers should continually monitor and suspected risks on a regular basis to insure that the risk is being controlled as much as reasonably practicable. Controls can be implemented or changes made to keep any risk to a minimum. If possible, training or retraining can be provided. In my own organisation, we regularly train and retrain employers to ensure that any risk to them of exposure to asbestos fibres is minimised.



Assess how the Interdependencies in Work Activities Impact on Operational Planning and Implementation

There are three main types of interdependences in an organisational structure: pooled, sequential and reciprocal (shared).

Pooled interdependence is defined as two or more entities being mutually dependent on each other. Such examples may include sharing knowledge and expertise as part of a team, or working with a co-worker to complete a specific project. This interdepndance can impact operational planning by ensuring that the right people with the relevant skillsets are placed together. In contrast, the operational plan can be detrimentally affected if the wrong people are placed together.

Sequential interdependence occurs when one unit in the overall process produces an output necessary for the performance by the next unit.[3] An example of such an interdependence is a car assembly line, where it is vital that the previous part of a vehicles assembly has been carried out before the next can commence. Operational planning in this exampling would need to ensure that the correct procedures have been put in place to ensure that the production can be carried out without delays. Are there enough parts in stock in the warehouse? Can the supplier keep up with demand? Are the correct tools in place to allow assembly to take place unhindered and on time? Failure to consider these basic requirements in the operation plan could result in delays in manufacturing and orders now being delivered on time.

Reciprocal interdependence is similar to sequential interdependence in that the output of one department becomes the input of another, with the addition of being cyclical.[4] It can be thought of as a chain where constant interaction is required. This can be particularly the case in R&D organisations where one area of the business is reliant on others sharing information, and equally an area of the business can be adversely affected if the operational plan is not adhered to and rules or systems change without prior discussion. In this case, the chain can be broken. If a football team fail to constantly interact with each other, they lose control of the ball.







Sources of Conflict in the Workplace

Sources of conflict in the workplace can manifest due to multiple reasons. These often include:

  • cultural and social differences
  • age barriers
  • clashes of personality (interpersonal)
  • poor communication
  • stress or personal problems
  • conflicting personalities

In addition, ACAS[1] lists problems such as:

  • ineffective or insufficiently trained management
  • unfair treatment
  • unclear job roles
  • poor work environment
  • lack of equal opportunities
  • bullying and harassment
  • unresolved problems from the past


Conflict sources analysed in more detail

Cultural and social differences

In their book ‘Managing Workplace Conflict in the United States and Hong Kong’[2], Catherine Tinsley and Jeanne Brett tell a short story of an example of cultural differences causing conflict in the workplace:

When a Western manager in a U.S.– Chinese joint venture asked a Chinese peer manager for some routine data, he received an equivocal response. The Western manager did not pursue the matter, assuming that he and the Chinese manager would discuss the data sometime in the future. A few days later, the president of the joint venture called the Western manager into his office and informed him that his recent request for data was denied. The Western manager was dumbfounded: Why had the president gotten involved in this relatively trivial matter? The Western manager felt that the president’s involvement reflected badly on his and his peer’s ability to manage conflict. His peer, on the other hand, believed that by involving the president in the matter, she was just following protocol.

In this example, the Western manager assumed that the two would simply settle the disagreement between themselves. However, his Chinese colleague believed that the outcome should be whatever his boss decided, as was expected in his work culture, and approached his boss for permission to provide the data. Meanwhile, the Western manager felt more relaxed about the data and incorrectly assumed that they would simply remedy the problem between themselves. His assumption was incorrect because he didn’t understand the culture of his colleague, and therefore didn’t understand how this would affect the outcome. As a Westerner, he is used to working in a more egalitarian environment and was allowed to make his own decisions, whereas his Chinese colleague worked in a hierarchical culture and would therefore be expected to refer decision making to his upper manager.[3]

Cultural differences have been something I have found the least difficult to deal with in my working life. I was lucky enough to attend a multi-lingual boarding school from the ages of 11 to 16 which was attended by people from all over the world. However, even in today’s UK, this is still an unusual situation for most teenagers. Cultural differences are ingrained in use from a very young age as we learn to develop and socialise, but can quickly escalate into conflict in and outside of the workplace if not suitably understood and managed. Badly managed, cultural differences can undermine workplace creativity and result in a discordant environment[4].

Communication can also be adversely affected if colleagues and customers are unable to understand each other[5], and not just verbally or in writing. Gestures, tone of voice and how we dress can all have an effect as previously discussed in Section 1.1.


Age barriers

Conflict caused by age barriers was one of the first issues I experienced when I started working. At the age of 18 I decided I wanted to give up college and start work, and I found myself a part-time job as an assistant in the IT department of a large wholesaler. The company was moving from a paper format and manual pricing system to a fully digitalised system which would manage stock and automatically re-order products as required. I had no qualifications in IT, but I did have a lot of self-taught experience as I was lucky to have come from one of the first secondary schools which had invested heavily in IT, and so quickly got a handle on how the systems worked. However, problems quickly developed between myself and my colleagues.

My colleagues were all aged 50 plus and most of them had little or no experience working with IT. None of them had a computer at home (many people still didn’t at the time) and although they could handle the basics of scanning products for stock taking, they quickly developed problems uploading the data from the handheld devices to the computer system. They had all originally been based in offices as Buyers, most at the same company for 20 years, and as well as coming to grips with a completely new system they felt their jobs were in jeopardy by the new system. Then there was an 18-year-old who was full of energy and enthusiasm flying though the work.

A few months later, the IT manager was diagnosed with cancer, and an application was advertised for a temporary manager to fill her role whilst she was off work recovering. I applied and was given the role. This was when things became incredibly difficult. My colleagues didn’t want to take orders from an 18-year-old and I didn’t know how to give them. I’d had no training, I was fresh out of school, and in hindsight I didn’t approach them in the best way.

The next few months would be very difficult. There was a lack of communication, one employee left the company and cited me as the reason, and I felt very isolated. Undoubtedly, some of my colleagues felt the same. Eventually I felt I had no option than to leave the company.

In hindsight, poor management was the main cause of the issues I experienced. A lack of training along with my lack of experience resulted in conflict which could have been avoided if managed correctly by senior management.


Clashes of personality

Personality clashes in the workplace are often avoidable, but when left unchecked they can cause considerable psychological stress and can lead to problems of anxiety and depression for those involved.[6]


Stress or personal problems

It’s likely that we will all experience problems at work caused by stress or personal problems at some time in our working careers. Relationship problems, family bereavement, physical illness and mental illness can all play a part in increasing levels of stress.

As much as we are told that personal problems should remain outside of the workplace, the reality is that this will become a problem for most of us at some time or another. People deal with personal problems in different ways. Some people may be outgoing regarding the problems and feel relaxed to discuss them with colleagues and managers. However, some people may be more reserved in their behaviour when dealing with personal issues and become more introvert-becoming more quiet than usual or avoiding any discussions or group work. They may become irritable, emotional, unreliable, and find it difficult to concentrate or shy away from making decisions. This can lead to aggression, short tempers, lack of patience and lack of supports which can all result in conflict.

The same behaviour may be exhibited for people suffering from bereavement:

“Grief impacts on almost every aspect of the bereaved person’s life. It can interfere with their thought processes, concentration and sleep patterns at a time when they may need to make important decisions. Fatigue, anxiety and mood swings are common. Knowing that they are supported by their employer can help to minimise the employee’s stress levels and reduce or avoid periods of sick leave.” – ACAS[7]


Mental Health

The World Health Organisation have stated that by 2020, depression will become the second most important cause of disability in the world[8]. Although mental health has become more widely discussed and understood in the past 20 years, my personal opinion is that there is still much progress to be made both socially and in the workplace in understanding illnesses such as depression. I recently read an article on the Health & Safety Executive’s website by Dr. Paul Litchfield, Chief Medical Offer of BT Group Plc. In the article, Dr Litchfield explained that businesses which fail to take mental health seriously will “not be successful in the 21st century” in today’s fast-growing global market. He goes on to say that line managers must adapt by “reacting appropriately to signs of distress, maintaining contact with people who may be plumbing the depths of despair and constructing practical return to work plans for those recovering from mental illness are the simple things that can prove job saving and, sometimes, even lifesaving”.

Just like any other personal issue, mental illness can result in unusual behaviour patterns. In the case of some mental illnesses such as unmanaged bipolar disorder, there can be mood swings from one extreme to another. All of these issues can result in conflict as colleagues struggle to know how to approach the person who is struggling. How will they react? Will they lose their temper? Why were they so happy about something that had gone wrong? Such questions can add stress to working relationships.


Conflicting personalities

Conflicting personalities in the workplace appear to be common, but can usually be resolved. “We just don’t get on” or “I just don’t like her” are phrases most of us will have heard at some time or another and which will continue if behaviours aren’t changed.

In my experience, conflicts in personality usually come about because one (or both) of the personalities refuse to accept that the other person is different to them, become involved in gossiping or decline to be polite.


Ineffective or insufficiently trained managers

“Do what I say, not what I do!” [this is crap management technique in most environments]

Ineffective managers are often borne from insufficient training. An inefficient manager may result in a department or company underperforming, which can cause conflict by adding stress to workplace relationships between individuals and teams. Over time this can result in colleagues rebuffing a manager which can cause a new individual line of conflict.

Poorly trained managers may find it difficult to handle the day-to-day stresses of work, which can have an adverse effect on relationships if that manager becomes unapproachable or unavailable.

Poorly trained managers may be unclear in their expectations and instructions leading to stresses between staff. This is reinforced by the previously discussed need to communicate clearly.

Ineffective managers will seldom accept that they are wrong, even when they know they are. This behaviour will undoubtedly lead to conflict between working relationships and it can give the impression of ignorance and arrogance.

Insufficiently trained managers will often be unable to recognise negative behaviour in a team before it manifests into conflict and may also lack the skillset required to quash the issue before it becomes problematic. They may also be unable to recognise a weak link in a team, or a person who is failing to pull their weight, both of which can result in conflict between employees as well as leading to the company’s values and goals being overlooked.

An ineffective manager may fail to recognise good work and acknowledge success, which can lead to employees feeling undervalued and possibly result in conflict.

Although managers have to delegate, I have often taken the position that a manager should never ask someone to do something they would not be prepared to do themselves. I also think that it is a great idea for managers to show that they are prepared to roll up their sleeves and get “stuck in” when the going gets tough, which can help prevent the “us and them” culture which sometimes manifests in companies.


Unfair treatment

An important role for managers in the workplace is to instill that colleagues are dealt with fairly, and that all employees treat each other with respect and dignity. Any employee (or group of employees) who believe they are being treated unfairly are likely to become less productive.

The Equality Act 2010 is the main piece of legislation relevant to the Fair Treatment at Work Framework although a number of pieces of other UK and European legislation may be relevant. Only certain types of behaviour by an employer can be unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act, if because of[9]:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

However, there is more to unfair treatment in practical terms and conflict can develop for other reasons, including:

  • Nepotism (favouring relatives or friends at work, especially by giving them jobs)
  • Favouritism (giving unfair preferential treatment to one person or group at the expense of another)

For example, I once worked for a company which was family owned. Whilst this was an excellent marketing tool (the company had an almost 100-year history) it meant that any newly available roles were expected to be filled by family members, regardless of the experience of existing staff. It eventually became clear to me that it would be impossible for me to progress into a senior management role within that company which led me to move to a different company to allow me to progress my career further.


Unclear job roles

Unclear job roles are, in my experience, the result of poor planning by management. Unclear job roles create confusion, may increase the risk of accidents, can result in duplication or unnecessary work being carried out or work being forgotten.


Poor work environment

A poor work environment may manifest in two main ways – poor quality working conditions or a hostile environment.

Poor conditions such as noise, damp, heat, poor lighting, etc., can all result in conflict in the workplace especially when staff are left feeling that they are not valued or that their concerns are not being taking seriously. In my industry, asbestos removal, Operatives work under fully controlled conditions which are heavily regulated by the Health & Safety Executive. These regulations specify that Operatives must be provided with breathing apparatus (regulators) which provide them with a fresh and filtered supply of air at all times and we therefore ensure that the respirators that they are supplied with are of the best technical specification available. Removing asbestos can be hot and tiresome work and we therefore want to ensure that our Operatives are given the best tools to enable them to carry out their work. Failure to do so has the potential to result in them feeling undervalued which in turn may develop into conflict.


Lack of equal opportunities

A lack of equal opportunities can lead to resentment within individuals or groups within an organisation, especially if the lack of equal opportunities appears to be due to their ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation.


Bullying and harassment

“Those who can, do.
Those who can’t. bully.” – Ritchie Hicks

Workplace bullying is a persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes harm[10] and can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation[11].

Research suggests that 1 in 10 employees are being bullied in the workplace[12], as many as 50 % of bullying victims claim to be bullied by a superior[13]. Workplace bullying can manifest through a number of areas including:

  • racial or ethnic prejudice
  • jealousy
  • abuse by a person with psychological tendencies for deliberately harming and humiliating others[14]
  • physical assault
  • sexual assault
  • gossiping
  • sabotaging work or projects
  • patronising behaviour
  • applying different rules to different people or changing rules on the fly

There is good evidence to suggest that perpetrators of bullying exhibit common (typically negative) personality traits such as narcissism, trait anger, vengefulness and trait anxiety[15].


Racial and ethnic prejudice

I have already touched on cultural barriers, but racial and ethnic prejudice still exists in many companies in the UK and is arguably one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today. On the day of writing, the Equality and Human Rights Commission released a report which said that there is “Entrenched Race Inequality” in the UK both in public and work environments.

Of course, this is an issue not just for business but for society as a whole. Black workers are more than twice as likely to be in insecure forms of employment such as temporary contracts or working for an agency – which increased by nearly 40% for Black and Asian workers, compared with a 16% rise for White workers. This is just one example of how inequality can divide colleagues, has the potential to exploit human rights and results in increased tensions in the workplace.[16]



Harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended and which is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010. It can manifest in a number of ways including[17]:

  • spreading malicious rumours
  • unfair treatment
  • picking on someone
  • regularly undermining a competent worker
  • denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities

Harassment becomes illegal when it is related to[18]:

  • age
  • sex
  • disability
  • gender (including gender reassignment)
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation

In my Company, we have a specific document which sets out a clear set of rules which all Employees are expected to adhere to in order to prevent harassment. If any of these are breached, we clearly set out a process for dealing which such cases, including:

  • Expecting an individual solely on the grounds stated above to comply with requirement(s) for any reason whatsoever related to their employment, which are different to the requirements for others.
  • Imposing on individual requirements which are in effect more onerous on that individual than they are on others. For example, this would include applying a condition (which is not warranted by the requirements of the position) which makes it more difficult for members of a particular race or sex to comply than others not of that race or sex.
  • Victimisation of an employee.
  • Harassment of an employee (which for the purpose of this policy is regarded as discrimination).
  • Any other act or omission of an act, which has as its effect the disadvantaging of an employee or applicant against another, or others, purely on the above grounds. Thus, in all disciplinary matters, as well as consideration for training, promotion etc. – it is essential that merit, experience, skills and temperament are considered as objectively as possible.

We also have a policy which clearly sets out how such cases will be dealt with.


Unresolved problems from the past

Just like our personal relationships, workplace relationships can be damaged if problems are not resolved. Unresolved problems will often leave one (or both) parties feeling aggrieved and it is important that closure is brought to prevent a problem reoccurring, or snowballing into a bigger problem in the future.





[3] Page 363





[8] Page 7 –


[10] Rayner, C. & Keashley, L. (2005). Bullying at work: A perspective from Britain and North America. In S. Fox & P. E. Spector (eds.) Counterproductive work behavior: Investigations of actors and targets (pp. 271-296). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.



[13] – Chapter 4.19


[15] (various credits within article)




Ineffective Communications on Working Relationships and Performance Standards

The impact of ineffective communications on working relationships and performance standards


Ineffective communication of goals, vision, and planning within the workplace can result in disengagement of a workforce and customers. This can lead to reduced productivity though a lack of connection, a lack of passion and even a lack of energy. In more severe cases, lack of engagement may also result in employees undermining managers or the company in general.

A lack of engagement can also effect factors outside of the company such an employee presenting themselves in an unsatisfactory manner to customers or openly criticizing the company to members of the public, clients and contractors.

“Only 37 per cent of UK workers surveyed felt they were encouraged to be innovative and fewer than half felt valued at work[1]

If we consider the study cited above, effectively, 63 per cent of the UK’s workforce are unlikely to feel engaged with their organization which can only have a detrimental effect of the performance of those companies over the long term.


Mixed messages

Mixed messages can occur within a business environment in various ways.

Body language can be a contributing cause of mixed messages. This is because people often do not perceive themselves as others do[2]. For example, someone struggling to hear a speaker may appear to someone else to be frowning at them. In contrast, a person who is smiling nervously whilst being reprimanded may appear to be behaving in a defiant matter, despite their intention being to the contrary. A misinterpretation of body language may result in an employee becoming unhappy, feeling undervalued or feeling as though they are being bullied; thus reducing an employee’s enthusiasm and possibly their overall productivity. In turn, this may result in an employee failing to aspire to the company’s goals and vision.


Poor written communication

A failure to communicate information clearly or in a professional manner may result in instructions being misinterpreted and mistakes being made. The knock-on effect is that remedial action may have to be taken to correct the errors which in turn can reduce productivity, lead to a drop in performance levels and hinder cash-flow.

For example, in the event of a misunderstood safety policy, there may be risk of injury, loss of life, or legal action by statutory organisations such as the Health and Safety Executive.

Good written communication skills can ensure that mixed messages are eliminated, saving time and resources, and keeping cash-flow at maximum potential.


Ineffective communications can result in tension between working relationships and lead to an erosion of trust. It may also result in conflict within the workplace.


Company goals and vision can be lost

Recent research by European Leaders found that 68% of employees questioned did not understand their company’s vision[3]. A failure to communicate properly with employees will result in them not fully understanding the company’s goals, and the company’s visions for the future. Without goals and without looking to the future, companies will ultimately fail to make the most of their resources and will expand much more slowly than the organisations true potential. An employee’s poor understanding of the company’s goals may also result in an employee becoming a deficient ambassador for the company.



Many projects within my organisation rely heavily on timelines being met and any miscommunication of the projects timelines can have both a financial impact and impact on the company’s reputation. In turn, this can lead to future tender opportunities being lost, pressure on cash-flow, stress on the labour force and delays starting proceeding contracts.


Working relationship outside of the company

Managers will often deal with external working relationships such as with suppliers, contractors or customers, and poor communication can result in unintended outcomes. Effective communication reduces the likelihood of mistakes being made or misunderstandings, and results in employees appearing professional at all times. If managers promote professionalism in communications this will reflect on the company as a whole and will also reflect on other employees of the company.

Occasionally, people will only hear what they want to hear!
Anyone who has experience of young children are likely to have experienced what is commonly referred to as ‘selective hearing’ (selective auditory hearing), but there is some evidence that the process of selective auditory hearing is something we develop from a young age and take through to adulthood[4].

Most often, auditory attention is directed at things people are most interested in hearing[5]. In other words, in certain situations, people will cherry-pick the information being given to them and only record the information that they prefer to hear, rather than the full facts.

This became evident to me early on in my career when I worked as a Sales Executive. Customers would occasionally ignore the information that worked less in their favour when negotiating a deal and only consider the points which worked in their favour. I realized that it was vital to be clear about all points of a deal and to document facts and figures from the outset so that there could be no disagreement later about what was discussed and agreed. As I progressed, it became clear that some colleagues could also do the same. Without clearly documenting discussions in minutes or recording them in another method such an audio recording, it was too easy for someone to say that something wasn’t discussed or agreed. Over time, this led to mistakes being made, timewasting and in some cases, unhappy clients.






[5] Bess, F.H., & Humes, L. (2008). Audiology: The Fundamentals. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Principles of Effective Communications in the Workplace

Effective communication in the workplace is arguably the most important of all skills and can have a substantial effect on a business’ success[1]. To me, effective communication falls into three main categories: general communication skills, interpersonal communication skills and written communication skills. Effective communication provides clarity, reduces the risk of mistakes or misinterpretation and ensures that employees are provided with a clear understanding of what is expected.


General communication skills

General communication skills are the skills one uses regardless of the communication tool being used. These skills include respect, understanding of cultural differences, sticking to facts (unless an opinion is being demonstrated) and engagement/delivery.

Respect in communication is vital as it helps build trust and working relationships and earning respect is arguably one of the more complicated and difficult skills a manager needs to acquire. One acronym we can follow as managers is R-E-S-P-E-C-T[2], which provides the important basic aspects of demonstrating and behaving respectfully. That is:

  • Recognize how what we are saying is coming across
  • Eliminate negative words and phrases from our vocabulary
  • Speak with people, not at them, or about them. Engage in a conversation, not a debate or a lecture
  • Practise appreciation – show appreciation
  • Earn respect from others by modelling respectful behaviours
  • Consider others’ feelings before speaking and acting. Is what we are saying kind? Is it necessary?
  • Take time to listen and don’t interrupt.

My personal belief is that a manager can gain an abundance of respect by rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty, being responsible and by proving that they can perform rather than expecting a job title to do the work for them. Only through this can managers expect to truly earn respect.

“Consider whether your influence comes from your position in the hierarchy (or access to privileged information), or whether it truly comes from respect that you have earned.If it is the former, start working on the latter.”[3]– Jim Whitehurst, President and CEO of Red Hat

Understanding of cultural differences has never been more vital than in today’s modern world. Increasing global markets and the ability to communicate easily via electronic systems have resulted in much easier communications across cultural and ethnic barriers. However, communicating across cultural barriers requires the ability to understand the difference in cultures and the ability to adapt to them.

I was recently speaking with a professional who was responsible for setting up one of the very first call-centres in India a large company. He is Indian born and explained that the biggest hurdle for this team was to teach the Indian call centre staff to speak in what he described as a “less monotone voice”. Because of this method of speaking (and after some research into hundreds of complaints from customers), he discovered that callers from the UK felt as though the Indian call centre staff were being sarcastic or even patronizing. However, through training and coaching, his team were able to change the way in which the staff spoke. That particular call centre would eventually become the most respected call centre in India and now has an entire team dedicated to dealing with the technical aspects of insurance claims. He admits that the company still has some way to go, but there is no doubt the understanding in place, and overcoming this cultural difference in communication has made his company more successful.

Communicating over cultural barriers is much more than how we speak. Cultures provide people with ways of thinking – ways of seeing, hearing, and interpreting the world. The same words can mean different things to people from different cultures, even when they talk the “same” language. When the languages are different, and translation has to be used to communicate, the potential for misunderstandings increases.[4]

“Some cultures get very emotional when they are debating an issue.  They yell, they cry, they exhibit their anger, fear, frustration, and other feelings openly. Other cultures try to keep their emotions hidden, exhibiting or sharing only the “rational” or factual aspects of the situation.” – Dr. Stella Ting-Toomey, Professor of Human Communication Studies at California State University

If we fail to understand cultural differences, we will fail in our communication, and we will fail to grow our business. This is especially true in such a diverse country as the United Kingdom.

Sticking to facts is important in communication within a management role and must never be confused with opinion. Factual information ensures that we are making decisions based on proven information, not what we prefer (or hope) to be true. It also ensures that we are not later discovered to have based our instructions on a mistruth, which could result in us being discredited and ultimately untrusted.

Good engagement and delivery mean that we keep our audience interested and communicate messages in a clear and concise manner.

We can use a number of different communication tools to engage and deliver effectively. These might be as basic as speaking with a clear, audible voice. It may also mean using presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint, using music to deliver a message, reading a story, producing an instructional video, or providing clear and concise written material.

Interpersonal communication skills

Interpersonal skills are the method in which communications are delivered. In a face-to-face environment, these skills include the tone of voice used, body language, facial expressions, clear speech and gestures (hand movements) [5][6].

The skill set used will vary depending on the situation at the time. For example, when speaking on the telephone, interpersonal communication skills become more limited, often only allowing for enunciation and tone of voice to be used to successfully communicate the mood of the information being shared.

According to, the seven key interpersonal communication skills[7] are:

  • Verbal communication
  • Non-verbal communication
  • Listening skills
  • Negotiation
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Assertiveness

Effective verbal communication relies on a number of aspects including good syntactic pronunciation (using words in the correct order), using semantics (to ensure the words we are using accurately describe our intentions and cannot be misinterpreted) and using contextual rules (to ensure we use the correct word choices according to the context and social custom they are being used in).

Non-verbal communication includes the use of visual cues such as body language (kinesics), distance (proxemics) and physical environments/appearance, of voice (paralanguage) and of touch (haptics). It can also include chronemics (the use of time) and oculesics (eye contact and the actions of looking while talking and listening, frequency of glances, patterns of fixation, pupil dilation, and blink rate)[8].

Effective non-verbal communication is vital in many aspects of a business environment.
For example, it would be important in a face to face meeting for my body language to be positive; failing to do so could result in other members of the meeting feeling that I was disinterested, failing to concentrate or unhappy with the information being provided.

Listening skills consist of five elements: hearing, attending, understanding, responding, and remembering[9].

Effective listening can only take place if a number of factors are adhered to. Firstly, it is important to remove any distractions as practicably as possible. In a meeting situation, this might be to ask all present to switch off and put away mobile phones or computers (unless they are required for taking notes or presenting information). It also helps to avoid any noisy environments and making the environment comfortable for all involved. Anyone who is uncomfortable is likely to be distracted from a conversation due to their discomfort thus less likely to record the information being communicated to them. In an office environment, this may be achieved by providing an office ‘breakout’ area to separate the usual working area from the distractions of talking and telephones[10].

Another important listening skill is to listen to and consider all the facts before making a snap decision, which often prevents conflict.

Part of effective listening is to ask questions, and management should be open to them. Asking questions allows a person to gain clarification and also helps the person speaking express their opinions or instructions in more detail. I have always believed that it is important to encourage employees to ask constructive questions on any points they are unsure which, in the long term, can avoid mistakes caused by a lack of understanding and may also provide a more sensible and efficient method for the task at hand, whether that may be in a technical environment or customer service role.

“[Employees] are better in touch with customers and stakeholders and they understand problems and possibilities, what works and what doesn’t better than you.”[11] – Professor James Detert, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, New York

When taking on a new member of staff, especially one who may be completely new to the industry, I actively encourage them to ask questions with the view that no question is a stupid question. This reassurance generally results in a positive response and helps the new employee understand the processes and what is expected of them.

Negotiation is critical to a business’ success[12] and although it may not be obvious, negotiation will usually take place daily. Structured negotiation is vital to ensure that the end goal is reached for all parties and that any differences are settled.

Good negotiation skills require more than simply pushing for what you (or your company) desires. Negotiation requires the principles of fairness, seeking mutual benefit and maintaining a relationship, which used correctly, will result in a successful outcome[13].

Problem solving is a skill in business which is required on an almost daily basis. According to the University of Kent, there are four fundamentals required for successful problem solving[14]: evaluation of information or situations; breaking the information or situations down into their key components; consideration of various ways of approaching and resolving them and then making a decision on the most appropriate of these ways.

Problem solving involves both analytical and creative skills, in particular. These include:

  • Analytical Ability – the ability to visualize, articulate, conceptualize or solve both complex and uncomplicated problems by making decisions that are sensible given the available information[15]
  • Lateral Thinking – the solving of problems by an indirect and creative approach, typically through viewing the problem in a new and unusual light[16]
  • Initiative – such as challenging ideas, looking for new ideas, actively seeking opportunities to try out new ideas and looking beyond obvious solutions[17]
  • Logical Reasoning which it is generally accepted there are two types of – Deductive reasoning (the process of reasoning from one or more statements to reach a logically certain conclusion[18]) and Inductive reasoning (in which the statements are viewed as supplying strong evidence for the truth of the conclusion[19])
  • Persistence – not giving up at the first dead end

“If at first you don’t succeed,
Try, try, try again.” – W. E. Hickson

“If at first you don’t succeed, sleep on it.
Things always seem a bit clearer the next day.” – Ritchie Hicks

During my training with the Scout Association, we have been encouraged to look at problem solving using the IDEAL problem-solving method which I have also found useful in business. The IDEAL method has five important processes to follow:

I – Identify problems and opportunities
D – Define alternative goals
E – Explore possible strategies
A – Anticipate and act
L – Look and learn

Using the IDEAL method can help forge effective working relationships within a team when followed in the correct order. It defines a process which can ensure all points of problem solving are covered in the correct order to ensure no areas are overlooked, thus reducing unnecessary pressure on the team or disagreements over the options available to complete the task.

Still, the most overlooked point in my experience is the last – to look and learn. It is vital to review the project and learn where areas could have been improved for the next time. It is too easy to complete a goal and move on to the next without looking back at what could have been improved. Reviewing the project helps us identify mistakes to help ensure that they don’t reoccur in another project. It also helps us to learn areas that could be improved upon next time as well as helping the team understand whether or not the path chosen to complete the project was the right one.

Written communication skills

Written communication skills comprise of a number of requirements. Grammar and spelling are very important. Using correct grammar and spelling ensures that there is no confusion over the point being made or the instruction being provided. Correct grammar and spelling also ensure that all communications reflect a level of professional competency[20].

Accuracy is vital within written communication as it ensures that the correct information is provided and reduces the likelihood of mistakes being made, which can be time consuming, result in unnecessary expense, give the appearance of unprofessionalism and even result in the safety of a person being put at risk.

We also need to consider whether written communication is necessary. At some point or another we are likely to encounter someone who feels the need to send emails or messages at the slightest event. This may not always be the best way to communicate complications to colleagues, especially those who receive many message’s a day, as points may be lost, may be confusing for the recipient and may also result in avoidable increases in levels of stress. Instead, it is sometimes best to keep notes and then send a summary email at the end of the day or once more tangible information is obtained.

Finally, I feel that an important leadership skill often overlooked by managers is empathy. Unlike almost all other leadership skills, empathy is an emotional skill and adds a more human element to management. Those people who have strong empathy skills are usually able to see the world though someone else’s eyes and understand their individual perspectives. This can be an extremely powerful tool when trying to break down barriers to communicate messages, especially cultural barriers.

Communicating with empathy can also be an important skill in building trust and respect within working relationships; leading to stronger bonds being formed between colleagues.

“Empathetic understanding is also indispensable in increasingly diverse markets, like those of the U.S., Germany, and even Japan, and in other cultures around the world. Neither technical knowledge nor business acumen suffices. You must be sincerely interested in understanding other cultural preferences and choices.”[21]























Concepts of Conflict Resolution and Conflict Management

Concepts of Conflict Resolution and Conflict Management

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution involves the reduction, elimination, or termination of all forms and types of conflict.[1]

The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument identifies five conflict styles – competing, compromising, collaborating, avoiding, and accommodating.[2]

Before any form of conflict resolution can take place, it is important to listen to and fully understand the sources of conflict. This enables all parties to voice their concerns whilst allowing managers to understand the root cause of the problems.



A competing environment which is poorly managed is arguable the riskiest in terms of business as it requires high assertiveness and usually includes low levels of cooperation.[3] As Dale Eilerman correctly states on his website, a competing style doesn’t give much consideration for the feelings, views or goals of the other party nor is there interest in collaboration or compromise. Winning is key for the competing person in this situation and anything else may be considered a sign of weakness.

Of course, in some areas of business, a competing style is encouraged. An example of this is my own work experience as a Car Sales Executive where staff were actively encouraged to compete for new business and anything else ultimately resulted in a lack of sales, unmet targets and lower pay. This is still a style that exists in the motor-trade and whilst this “cut throat” manner of conducting business may serve to increase shareholder or investor’s interests, is does little to assist working as a team. Managers in these environments often have to deal with high levels of stress from juniors and higher management and a competing environment can quickly derail progress.

A competing work environment can be managed by setting out acceptable working practices/behaviour, promoting fairness, and encouraging those who may not be as comfortable in competing environment.

It should also be noted that some people do not perform well in a competing environment – especially if they are competing directly with colleagues – and alternative strategies and/or positions within an organisation may need to be considered to get the utmost potential out of the person in a different manner.



Compromise is the method of resolving conflict by settling a dispute by mutual concession. Unlike a competing method, compromise allows all concerned parties to come to a mutual agreement on how to conclude a conflict (or how to move on) which benefits all sides. Although compromise may require one (or more) sides to back down it will usually result in less resources being used and in time being saved in the long term.

By allowing all sides to voice their concerns and opinions, and then by managing these so that both sides feel they have had an equal say and input (as far as practical), conflict becomes much easier to manage and in many cases this will bring it to an end.




Much like compromise, collaboration allows all concerned to have a fair input into a project or problem whilst (most importantly) using the skillsets of all concerned. By working together and when correctly managed, conflict can be reduced by allowing all parties to feel that they are in a win/win situation.

However, collaboration can often take the most time of all conflict management resolutions and should therefore only be used for larger projects; as a manager may find oneself overwhelmed if collaboration is used for trivial issues.



Sometimes, we are better off avoiding conflict altogether, even if we believe we are completely in the right, and look at the bigger picture. Can we achieve our goals by completely avoiding the conflict on this occasion and “play the long game”? Is this an argument we’re simply never going to win? If that’s the case, then what is the point in becoming involved in any sort of conflict which only stands to waste time and effort and achieve nothing?

Some studies have found that frequency of arguing about relational problems between couples is negatively related to relational quality (Lloyd, 1987, 1990) and there is no reason this evidence should not relate to working relationships, also.

In some situations, avoidance may appear that someone is burying their head in the sand and avoiding dealing with a problem or putting effort into a project and this should always be considered. Nevertheless, in my opinion, avoidance of conflict should always be the first consideration when facing a potential confrontation.


Accommodation (Smoothing Over the Problem)

Accommodation uses some parts of the previous points discussed, such as negotiation and compromise.

Accommodation can be useful in two ways: (1) if you are a manager and want your subordinates to take on responsibility and learn from their own mistakes, and (2) when you are hopelessly outmatched in power and the other side is using a competing strategy and you are going to lose anyway![4]

As with some other forms of conflict management, accommodation allows for some “give and take”. It should be considered that overuse of accommodation in a management style may lead to a manager appearing as if they aren’t prepared to stand their ground.




Conflict management minimises the negative outcomes and promotes the positive outcomes of conflict with the goal of improving learning in an organisation. In my experience, conflict is better tackled head on, which helps to avoid problems escalating into bigger problems, keeps colleagues happy and prevents drops in productivity.







Importance of Giving and Receiving Constructive Feedback to Colleagues

The importance of giving and receiving constructive feedback to colleagues in the workplace

“Companies like Google have invested more in employee support and employee satisfaction has risen as a result. For Google, it rose by 37%, they know what they are talking about. Under scientifically controlled conditions, making workers happier really pays off.” – Professor Andrew Oswald, Department of Economics, University of Warwick.

Giving constructive feedback is vital within the workplace. It encourages staff to work in a positive manner, reaffirms that employees are working in the right direction and promotes development through learning. What’s more, it makes people feel good and when workers are happy they perform better. In fact, one study by the University of Warwick found that employees were up to 12% more productive when they are happy[1].

Providing positive feedback is a great way to make an individual or team feel appreciated, in turn inspiring them to complete the next task even better than the last. In addition, positive feedback helps to cement relationships within teams and on a personal level as well as showing colleagues that their good work hasn’t gone unnoticed.

At times, it’s likely a manager will have to give negative feedback. Provided that the negative feedback is given in a manner which is constructive so that the negative point can eventually be turned into a positive outcome. It should be provided in a way that helps the recipients learn how to improve and not in a way which leaves them feeling undervalued or embarrassed.

Receiving negative feedback can feel to the recipient that they are being criticised, which is why managers often shy away from providing feedback at all. However, delivered in the correct manner, feedback can actually be a supportive way to deal with under-performance in a constructive way, whilst helping to develop performance to a higher level[2].

Providing constructive feedback is an excellent way of increasing engagement within businesses. Through collaboration individuals and teams can be encouraged to communicate and managers who encourage constructive feedback will be able to learn more of what is required to ensure that a business benefits in a positive manner.