Cultivating a “Just” “Safety” Culture

Cultivating a “Just” “Safety” Culture 

To operate effectively as organizations become more interconnected, interdependent, and interrelated, the modern leader must augment their management capacity and pay attention to devices for reducing conflict.  

On Conflict and Differences.  

An inherent element of all social relationships and institutions including businesses is human conflict. As individuals, our different personalities, values, needs, and interests, can and often creates expectations and perceptions that usually results in experiences of conflict - frustration, anguish, a sense of crisis, etc., – when contrary to our expectations and perceptions. In a recent article, we discussed some important concepts and causes of organizational conflict and the need to preserve the employment relationship. 

With the proper perspective and context, conflict itself isn’t inherently bad because different doesn’t mean wrong or bad. But the predicament is we aren’t taught how to deal with conflict. And outside of psychology or sociology programs, very few formal school educational programs teach these skills. In many cases, without ‘expert’ help, and sometimes even with it, our experiences can become volatile and chaotic from unexamined differences and poorly managed conflict.  

One of the most important hallmarks of effective governance is the management and oversight of conflict. Because how we deal with, and manage conflict situations is a huge determinant of successful employment relationships, and a critical indicator of healthy organizational cultures.

In organizational environments, with many people interacting at different levels, this is even more pronounced. Unfortunately, a majority of organizations are simply ill equipped in their approaches for dealing with interpersonal and other forms of conflict. This is partly because organizations are not designed to manage conflict, so the mechanisms for conflict resolution are mostly an afterthought. Also, because conflict management training is missing in most organizational training requirements and curriculums.  

In practice, we are limited to so called “open door” policies or HR processes that have proven to be unfair or one-sided to adequately manage conflict. So differences quickly disintegrate and turn adversarial with costly litigations where the only real winners are the lawyers. 

So Why is Fairness Important?

In exchange for our contributions of time, effort, and taxes, our affiliation with organizations provide us with important economic and socioemotional benefits that meet our needs for material well-being, comfort, standard of living, and one’s status and value within a group. And decisions regarding employee-related matters seriously affect these benefits, particularly those related to discipline, layoffs, transfers, promotions, privileges, work schedules, and wages. Therefore, not only is it important that employees perceive the outcomes of these decisions as fair, it is equally important that the procedures or processes for these decision-making be perceived as equitable or fair.  

Perceptions of unfair treatments can have a significantly damaging effect on the employment relationship which in turn leads to lower commitment, lower satisfaction, conflict, attrition, theft, aggression, etc.

But there’s hope and there is an alternative. I recently partnered with LexisNexis to produce a one-of-a-kind practice note that helps employers in developing and maintaining an effective and legally compliant peer advisory board program (PAB or PAB Program) (also known as a peer review panel) for ensuring due process protections in conflict resolution. A PAB Program is an internal grievance redressal mechanism for improving conflict management and problem-solving behaviors through an independent review of managerial decisions by a group of managers and fellow employees. 

Fair, Independent, and Unbiased Grievance Redressal Process 

  • Ethical organizational due process. The concept of organizational due process is the application of ‘due process’ protections of fairness to employee grievances as a means of ensuring employee justice. This means that to deal fairly with employees, employers must have established procedures for dealing with personnel matters, and those procedures need to be administered consistently and fairly. This protects employee rights and interests by ensuring fair outcomes in decisions that affect their lives, as well as fairness in the procedures used to reach these decisions. 
  • Opportunity to be heard and the right to appeal. In the corporate context, fair hearing procedures with a meaningful internal appeal system are the corporate equivalent of due process. Thus, the right to appeal a managerial decision is the clearest and most significant manifestation of a due process right, and a PAB Program is the most effective mechanism to do this. 

We invite you to share your thoughts with us and share with your teams, but most importantly to look within your team, department, or organizations to see how the true costs of conflict are deteriorating these important relationships and impairing your performance. 


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