Resolving workplace difficulties and conflict

We know that on occasion an individual may have problems or concerns about their work, their working conditions or relationships with colleagues.

We wish to support staff and managers to work together to resolve disputes and conflicts at a local level, to maintain high levels of morale and performance and ensure that we are all able to work effectively to deliver our strategic objectives.   We have a variety of services to support staff and students to resolve difficulties at work:

We also offer a range of support to help staff cope:

Elsewhere on our website you can also find:

  • Chaplaincy
  • Disability Support
  • Carer's Guidance for staff who have caring responsibilities outside work.

HR Manager support

The HR Business Support team is here to advise you about questions and issues that relate to your employment at the University.

The team includes HR Managers who are responsible for providing expert advice and guidance on all aspects of people management and employee relations activities to managers and staff within the University.  We operate a client support model, working closely with managers and staff in nominated Faculties and Services.

We can provide advice on a wide range of topics including people management, equal opportunities; role reviews and gradings, organisational reviews; disciplinary, capability and grievance cases; absence management; employment law; policy development; trade union partnership, negotiation and consultation.

We hope that many of your queries can be answered by reference to our web pages and Frequently Asked Questions but if not then please contact us directly by telephone or e-mail and we will do our best to help. You can find our contact details here.

Trade union support

External Site

Unison

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External Site

UCU

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The University recognises the important role trade unions play in addressing problems or concerns.  You can seek support and assistance from their Trade Union regarding your concerns and you are also entitled to be accompanied by Trade Union representatives in investigatory meetings.

We formally recognise two Trade Unions: 

  • UCU (University and College Union) are the recognised representatives for academic staff at the University.
  • UNISON (the public service union) are the recognised representatives for non-academic staff at the University.

Trades Unions consult and negotiate at all levels on issues relating to staff though agreed processes.  They have national, regional and local branches.

At the University, local Trade Union officers and stewards are drawn from members of staff. In addition to supporting staff directly, these representatives meet with senior management at regular meetings of the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), and Negotiating Panels, to reach agreement on issues which affect staff. The agreements reached affect both members and non-members.

Trades Unions charge a small annual subscription for membership.

To contact or join a Trade Union you can contact: 

Joint Union Office
Room E212
The Gateway
City Campus
Chester Road
Sunderland
SR1 3SD

or by telephone/fax on (0191) 515 2549

Support from colleagues

'Staff supporting staff'

Staff are often the first contact person for a colleague in distress, and play an important role in the care of people around the University. Sometimes a colleague will approach a member of staff (such as their line manager, team leader or work mate) directly, ostensibly because something is going wrong at work.

There may be a wide range of possible underlying reasons for the difficulties experienced by the colleague.

Members of staff are not expected to be already-trained with the appropriate skills or resources to help with everything, and being supportive of a colleague can be demanding. Basic listening skills may be sufficient to help a colleague to feel supported.

'Staff supporting students'

Staff play an important role in the pastoral care of students. Tutors are often the first point of contact for a student in distress. Usually, but not always, a student will approach a member of staff ostensibly because something is going wrong in relation to their studies. However, there may be a wide range of underlying reasons for the academic difficulties experienced by the student.

Members of staff are not expected to be trained with the appropriate skills or resources to help with everything. However, use of basic listening skills can help a student to feel supported.

For further information on Student Services including Health and Wellbeing please click here.

Mediation

Mediation brings people together with a trained mediator or mediators, who helps the individuals to find a solution to conflict at work.

The main goal of mediation team is to offer a practical route to facilitate a more positive working environment.

Mediation is impartial, confidential, voluntary and relatively swift.  It consists of one or more confidental, structured discussions facilitated by a trained mediator.  It provides a route to address workplace issues in a supportive and timely way. Mediation supports staff and managers to work together to resolve disputes and conflicts.

Workplace mediation is most effective when individuals enter the process voluntarily, and have equal authority to reach agreements. During the process individuals are encouraged to identify their own solutions and agreements.

  • Mediators are impartial to the conflict and seek to help all parties equally.
  • Mediators do not express opinions or make judgements about who is right or wrong.
  • Mediation is proven to be an effective tool for resolving interpersonal conflicts between colleagues, managers and their staff, conflicts between teams or between staff and students.

The University’s Mediation Service is voluntary and any individual can request an initial confidential meeting with a trained mediator. Mediation does not need referral from a line manager.

We have a range of trained mediators from across the University who can provide objective support in bringing disputants together in order to find a solution. Additionally, the University offers mediation services for resolving student-only issues when appropriate.

For more information about the Mediation service, please access the Mediation service policy, our promotional booklet, or have a look at our staff news article.

Please contact Human Resources for confidential advice on mediation for staff:

Please contact Fiona Jackson for confidential advice on mediation for students:

Grievance Procedure

Problems or concerns can often be raised and settled informally and you should seek informal resolution through your line manager (or their manager) in the first instance.  Mediation can also help.

Informal resolution is designed to encourage free communication between employees and managers. This also allows for problems or concerns to be settled quickly and fairly and close to the point of origin avoiding the unnecessary build up of stress, tension or aggravation for all parties. 

If the problem or concern has not been resolved informally then a formal grievance can be raised

Dignity at Work Policy and Procedure

We aim to create a workplace which recognises and respects individual difference and which challenges harassment or bullying, recognising it as destructive, to the recipient, the harasser or bully, and the University.

All forms of harassment or bullying are unacceptable.  We treat reports of harassment with understanding and support in order that unacceptable behaviour and practices are brought into the open and eliminated.

Our Dignity at Work Policy and Procedure explains what harassment and bullying are, and sets out the options for employees who feel they may be experiencing harassment or bullying - whether from a colleague, a student or a member of the public.

This page was published on 13 December 2017