Dr Leigh Hodder is a registered psychologist with 23 years of experience, including a PHD. Holding various qualifications in mediations and investigations, Leigh also developed a process that diagnoses the dynamics of unhealthy workplace teams.
I am a qualified and registered psychologist with 23 years’ experience. My qualifications include a Bachelor of Social Studies (Psychology), a Bachelor of Social Studies (Psychology Honours) and a PhD, including an honours thesis on the mediation process. I then went on to complete a mediation certificate from the Law Faculty of Queensland University of Technology.
I began dealing with conflict prior to completing my certificate in mediation in my role as a debt collector and team leader in the finance sector. Initially, I wasn’t highly skilled at dealing with conflict and enjoyed the challenge.
Psychology has always been of interest to me. Thanks to my background in the bank, I learnt a lot about people and how they behave, so it was a logical step for me to pursue studies in Psychology. I was also in the music business for 20 years and one of the few females in that industry at the time, performing in and managing bands. Those environments provided a wealth of experience in dealing with people and conflict.
A passion for training led me to attain a Cert IV in Training and Assessing in the same year I completed my honours thesis and mediation certificate. This enabled me to contract to an RTO for thirteen years, where I travelled around Australia training trainers and assessors on mine sites and training groups in conflict resolution, mediation and leadership.
Through my time in mining, I attained qualifications in Metalliferous Mining and Incident Investigation. These skills transferred to workplace investigations.
I also developed a proprietary process to diagnose the dynamics of unhealthy workplace teams and assist them to move towards health.
Why do you think there is a growing need for managers to effectively deal with conflict?
As the funding was pulled away from organisations for “soft skills” training years ago, areas of training such as conflict resolution, effective communication and negotiation were not considered a priority as organisations focused more on technical training.
What we see now in workplaces are a few “generations” of employees who have not been exposed to conflict management and who lack the confidence in this area. However, the need has always been there and now organisations are starting to realise this again, which is creating demand.
How could unmanaged conflict create an issue for organisations?
Conflict that is poorly managed or ignored is a significant contributing factor in the departure of up to 50% of employees. In addition, unmanaged conflict will not typically resolve on its own and erodes the trust and respect in working relationships.
A significant portion of all managers’ time is spent attempting to deal with conflict in the team and that takes away from their capacity to complete their own tasks and achieve KPIs. They can find it very stressful.
Mismanagement of conflict can even leave an extra layer of issues on top of the original problem. It also affects the HR team, being the next line in the chain of command, who already have a lot of issues to deal with. If managers are effectively trained it can alleviate a lot of this pressure.
Do you have any advice for managers who are responsible for conflict situations?
Conflict does not resolve itself and should be dealt with properly before it escalates.
Most organisational policies state that employees should be trying to resolve conflict one-on-one before taking it to a manager, but their lack of training means people rarely have the skills to deal with their own conflict. So too, around 80% of Australians are conflict avoidant.
Trained managers need to react sooner rather than later.
Breaking away, what activities do you enjoy when you are not working?
I enjoy craft, music, reading, writing, gardening, movies and spending time with friends and family in my spare time. I also occasionally enjoy doing nothing, guilt-free – it is good for a person’s mental wellbeing to switch off completely. Travel is also a passion, with my favourite destinations being Ireland, England, Salem and also New Zealand, where I was born.
iHR Australia has released a new face-to-face program: Managing Workplace Conflict for Managers, Team Leaders and Supervisors. This inhouse workshop focuses on providing participants with the skills, processes and confidence needed to effectively assist parties in conflict to reach resolution.