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Human Law Mediation Ezine: April 2009

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Human Law Ezine - April 2009

Five tips for settling an employment dispute

As I pointed out in my recent email newsflash (Employers warned of rise in employment claims) the number of employment claims is on the increase. As a consequence the need to settle disputes in a difficult employment market has never been greater. The question is how you effectively negotiate in such a difficult employment environment. What are the skills which separate the great negotiators from the not so great ones?

Employment law specialist and mediator, Justin Patten, offers his expert tips for settling employment disputes cost effectively and with minimum disruption.

One of the key skills which an employment lawyer or mediator can bring to the table is the ability to effectively evaluate any employment dispute. Knowledge of law will help an employer to know the possible value of any employment claim and what is involved. From this one can start to consider what the offer should be and when to walk away. This involves identifying all plausible alternatives you may pursue if you fail to reach an agreement and how things will work out with the employee.

Focus on the other side’s needs
One of the key aspects of negotiation is to not just focus on your own position but to consider also that of the other side. One of the dangers within negotiation is that one focuses on one’s own BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Settlement). One of the intriguing aspects for employers at the moment is that employees are in a much weaker negotiating position due to the poor economic environment and the difficulty in finding alternative employment. The skilful negotiators talk in language which clearly plays to the other parties needs and will focus on why that person should settle.

At times negotiation can be tough. The ones who often get the best results tend not necessarily to have the best cases but are the ones who are most determined to see things through to the end. Being firm within a negotiation may not be the most appealing thing to do but can be the best way to get a deal.

Diffuse Anger anger from the Opponent
Employment disputes can get tough and the employee can be angry. Try to develop a plan for dealing with anger such as seeking to understand why the employee is angry, giving voice to the anger and helping the employee focus on his or her underlying interests. Try asking questions such as “What would you like to see happen now?” or “Is there anything else you would like to discuss or clarify before we return to the substantive issues you highlighted earlier?” This can take the heat out of the negotiation.

Try to use flair
Employment dispute can get confrontational. Sometimes some imagination in trying to bring something else to the table can go a long way. I know of one instance where an employee who felt that her long service was not sufficiently valued was very happy to receive a new clock as a token of appreciation for all the work which she had done. The gift was more important than the money. To get to this point the employment negotiator had to apply flair and use out of the box thinking.
Justin shares more detailed information about resolving employment disputes in his 14-page Guide to Keeping Disputes out of Court available to download from the Human Law Mediation website

Further reading:

Register now for our White Paper on Negotiating for Excellent Results being published in April 2009.

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Justin Patten
Justin - Personal Profile
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“I can confidently say that he handled the dispute professionally and efficiently and brought it to an end successfully.” Solicitor

“We are delighted to have appointed Human Law to handle all our employment law matters - we only have 13 employees but it is amazing how many issues crop up.” Robert Pulford, Charville

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