The main reason for a sick leave conflict to occur is based on surface impressions and perceptions issues. Individuals have different perception, values and believes and do not know how to communicate with one another and respect each other due to ones own misunderstanding and own cultural believes.
I will use the example of a person that would like a sickleave payment instead of deduction of two days holiday for the missed working days, to create some case guidance notes.
Let’s add a bit more conflict too it as well… (this example is in many countries legal!)
As an employee and HR have a different understanding of the dispute, effective negotiation is likely to be difficult to achieve, creating so-called framing problems.
This disagreement actually holds no ‘good or bad guys’, by signing off a holiday request instead dispense a sickleave payment. The employee feels that he/she is being treated unfairly, as in most countries the employee has the right to take both holiday and receive paid sick leave, as is stated in the employment contract. He/She does not understand the reasons for not giving it and actually throws his/her employment contract on HR desk to point out the sections applicable – taking quite an aggressive stance. Unfortunately, the employee does not realise that contracts are not as important as building good relationships and conflict is seldom defined by a legal contract alone.
It is about equality and fairness, it about employee rights, should an employee make a formal complaint for the better good of the group, protecting against unjust being done?What would you do?
Is it is about self-face preservation and using the confrontational strategies trying to display a strong win-lose attitude. I believe that employees realise that the rules for interaction are not clear and that there is usually a mismatch of expectations on what is expected from the employee by HR.
HR takes the stance that the employee should take two days paid holidays for the days she was sick. Moreover, HR most likely holds the perception that the employee focuses too much on the disagreement issue, not enough on areas of their commonality or agreement. The employee may argue the position constantly and sees things universally, which is may be too direct and competitive. Non-verbal communication seems a trait that HR is using in many of such occurances.
Although the tangible factors are important, those that are intangible are ones that one cannot seen or touched. This is the main reason why the employee’s sick leave request may have gotten turned down, it is about understanding’s HR perception of the situation, working in harmony is the crucial ingredient for working productively, and in certain countries it is all about being personal or totally opposite.
The breakdown between employee and HR may have a high price, especially if other employees have similar reactions; it may impact future productivity and it can permanently undermine working relationships. This is where good cross-cultural training for both parties is valuable. A lot of hurdles can be discussed in the onboarding training sessions given by HR and thus this could have all been prevented. Perhaps the employee should have really immersed him/herself in the working culture and organisation.
I believe an employee will need to take time to cool down. He/She needs to put the conflict issue away and define a plan of action; from a distributive to integrative strategy, separate individual’s thinking from the conflict, find common interests in the overall conflict and start negotiating. It is all about perception issues as these define the actual problem and even its solution, the employee needs to bridge the gap. Their plan of action should include the following:
The employee should schedule a meeting with HR; The employee needs to discuss his/her point of view, but also acknowledge the other side. He/she will need to apologise and make a diligent attempt to resolve this situation. The employee may need to build up a relationship with the organisation that likely he/she never had. To assist in this process the employee can make small concessions, as a signal of good faith. Moreover, an employee will also need to depersonalise the conflict and both employee and HR, should focus looking for common ‘goals’ since the sick leave conflict tends to magnify differences and minimise any similarities between them. If both parties take the above approach the negotiation will be successful.
I believe the actual answer to employee’s solution to the conflict lies in what B.H. Liddell Hart, historian stated “Have unlimited patience. Never corner an opponent and always assist the other person to save his face Put yourself in his shoes-so as to see things through his eyes. Avoid self-righteousness like the devil-nothing is so self-blinding”.
What as a HR professional would you do with this case/employee? Would you pay out sick leave? or take the holiday? (would you do something tangible/intangible ‘under the table’, work something out with the employee? – or would you follow process?)