The role of human resources in conflict
resolution has changed considerably from being routine to
strategic, Prof. Lakshman Madurasinghe, Chairman (Media and
Publicity), Institute of Personnel Management of Sri Lanka (IPMSL)
"The major causes of conflict are behaviour and
conduct, unfair labour practices and victimization and also
bosses purportedly from ‘hell’. However, conflicts can produce
positive results when they cause open discussions on an issue,
increases individual involvement, improves communication,
releases stored emotions and helps people develop their
abilities, "he told a forum jointly organised by IPMSL and the
Organisation of Professional Associations (OPA) in Colombo
recently. Prof. Madurasinghe spoke on the theme "Conflict
Resolution - the HR Role".
Conflicts become negative if it diverts people
from dealing with important issues, creates feelings of
dissatisfaction among the people involved and also leads to
people becoming uncooperative, he noted.
"HR has a strong role both in attitudinal change
and transformational leadership. The primary levels of conflict
within organisation are interpersonal (within an individual),
interpersonal (between individuals), Introgroup (within a group)
and intergroup (between groups)", he stressed.
There are two basic types of negotiation, namely
distributive negotiations and intergrative negotiation. In
intergrative negotiations the focus is to separate people from
the problem, focus on interests, not positions, invent options
for mutual gain and insist on using objective criteria. The
distributive process is based on the position of "I want it
all", "Time warp", "good cop, bad cop" and "ultimatums" Prof.
The key task for a mediator are ensuring mutual
motivation, achieving a balance in situational power,
coordinating confrontation efforts promoting openness in
dialogue and maintaining in optimum level of tension Prof.
"A strike is defined as the cessation of work by
a body of persons employed in any trade industry, acting in
combination or a concerted refusal... to continue to work or to
accept employment said Deputy General Manager - HRM, Commercial
Bank of Ceylon Jayantha Jayaratna.
Speaking on "Industrial Unrest/Harmony", he said
that industrial conflict is a disagreement between a body of
workmen and an employer and could take the form of a go-slow,
work-to-rule, refusal to work overtime, strike, boycott or a
lock out. "Industrial relations is a relationship amongst the
state, employers and trade unions representing the workers.
However, of the total labour force of 7 million, comprising of
0.86 million in the public sector and 2.7 million in the private
sector, the rest of the labour force and involved in the
informed sector and are not unionized," he said.
The present system is burdened with inadequate
facilities and a lack of skills at the Department of Labour and
trade unions which have a strong historical background,
politicization, presence of external elements, multiplicity of
trade unions and a duplication of membership compounded by an
adversarial relationship between employers and trade unions
To provide a fair and equitable order for all
parties, the government must decide priorities on economic
growth, poverty alleviation and employment generation, he
The realities of globalization has to be
accepted by all parties with the need to change. Industrial
relation have to be viewed in the context of the rapidly
changing external economic environment and investment must be
encouraged, employment generated with new forms of employment
with labour law reforms.
"Political influence (external elements) must be
withdrawn for the trade union movement, with less state
intervention and bipartisanism being encouraged. The Labour
Department must be realigned to national priorities and must
have a clear policy, adequate resources and improved skills."
Labour disputes could be avoided by the
development of mutual trust, respect for each other,
participatory practices, effective communication and information
sharing by both parties. There must also be a change in the
attitude of the employer toward the trade union Jayaratne added.
At the level of the organisation, top management
must understand the organisation’s policy on human resources and
industrial relations. The approach of the management toward
trade unions, the attitude of the trade unions, linking
industrial relations to other key areas of HR management, good
HR practices and a strong and competent HR department will help
develop strong industrial relations, Jayaratne stressed.