What do we do now?
A complaint or grievance may begin small and minor but by the time it comes to the notice of the institution’s senior management it may have become many-layered and complicated. It may be far from obvious what to do.
Institutions often take the shortest route in the case of employees by paying a sum in settlement to persuade the employee to sign a Settlement Agreement.
- This is not an appropriate use of public money if the expenditure is a consequence of a failure to resolve the dispute at an early stage and is calculated mainly to bring a messy situation to an end.
- It can leave the employee with a lifelong sense of injustice and the department or faculty licking its wounds for some years afterwards.
In the case of students the ‘exit routes’ are less well-trodden but here too the temptation is to seek a solution which gets the complainant out of the institution, for example by paying fees and maintenance costs to enable the student to transfer elsewhere to continue his or her course.
From the point of view of avoiding a lasting sense of ‘unfinished business’ and allowing everyone involved to ‘get on with their lives’ it is better to arrive at a resolution in everyone’s interests.
Mediation can be appropriate at any stage of a dispute and however complicated it has become. It can be tried more than once, as a dispute unfolds.