Conflict and Complaint Management Services: A one-stop shop for addressing conflict in the workplace

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Video: Major General Frances J. Allen, Deputy Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, on International Conflict Resolution Day, the Integrated Conflict and Complaint Management Program and Healthy Workplace Month (see below for video transcript)

To mark Healthy Workplace Month, this is the first in a series of four articles about the Integrated Conflict and Complaint Management (ICCM) and the Conflict and Complaint Management Services (CCMS) centres that have been established across the country. This piece offers a general overview of the CCMS offices. The other articles in this series will explain the benefits of these resources to members and to leaders, and offer a behind-the-scenes perspective of the CCMS centres’ development.

As Director General, ICCM, Alain Gauthier has a unique perspective on how workplace conflict within the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) contributes to mental health issues.

In his presentation last month at a conference of the prestigious Canadian Mental Health Association in Edmonton, Mr. Gauthier spoke about how a network of new offices and resources are empowering DND/CAF personnel with more information as they go through conflict- and complaint-resolution processes. He spoke of solutions that make processes more transparent and efficient. He explained initiatives that strengthen trust in the workplace, and diminish certain contributors to stress and anxiety.

New Conflict and Complaint Management Services

Given the importance of addressing workplace conflict, DND/CAF recently launched a new resource to help Defence Team members and commanders address conflicts and complaints more effectively. Sixteen CCMS centres have been rolled out and are already having an impact.

“Most of us want to avoid conflicts because they’re uncomfortable or we fear retribution,” notes Mr. Gauthier. “Conflict is going to happen and, when it does, it’s important that it be addressed early, locally and informally as much as possible. The CCMS centres help colleagues to resolve workplace conflicts and restore operational effectiveness.”

The offices are resources that all members of the Defence Team can access to better understand the options available for addressing a conflict or complaint. This applies to concerns pertaining to harassment, human rights, grievances or workplace disputes. Members can access the program by e-mail, mail, phone or in person.

CCMS agents are specifically trained in complaint management and resolution. Their role is to offer confidential and independent advice to anyone who feels they need help lodging or addressing a conflict or complaint.

Agents will offer guidance and advice to individual members and also to chains of command. The intent is to ensure awareness of all the options available to address a problem.

“Before, there was a lot of delay and frustration with the system, whereas now there’s a one-stop shop where you can get answers quickly.” – Alain Gauthier, Director General, Integrated Conflict and Complaint Management

A key development is the creation of a centralized tracker for all complaints. The computer-based tracker will help ensure files don’t get lost. In addition, it will help leaders understand the prevalence of an issue in a unit, base or region—and also across DND/CAF.

People First. Mission Always.

The creation of CCMS centres comes at a time of cultural change in the Defence Team. It’s a subtle change in some ways, but it’s an important evolution.

For a long time, the main institutional driver was accomplishing missions: the mission came first, and the organization did everything it could to meet the demands of operational tempos. While this approach has its merits, it doesn’t sufficiently account for the fact that people—soldiers, sailors, aircrew, civilian employees and military families—are the foundation of operational effectiveness.

“As part of the new defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged, the organization’s mindset is shifting to a philosophy of People First, Mission Always and there are a variety of initiatives underway that exemplify this shift, including the availability of CCMS resources,” says Mr. Gauthier.

Find the Way Ahead

The tagline of the ICCM program is Find the Way Ahead. The phrase speaks to the fact that there are a variety of options that present themselves when conflict arises and it’s important to find the best solution.

“It’s not always possible to avoid conflict in the workplace,” says Mr. Gauthier. “When conflicts or complaints do arise, what counts is our ability to overcome the challenge and emerge stronger because of it.”

Image gallery

  • William Bolen, supervisor at the Edmonton Conflict and Complaint Management Serivices Centre

Video transcript

Good Day, I am Major General Frances Allen, Deputy Vice Chief of the Defence Staff.

Along with all Canadians, the Defence Team is taking time during October to observe Healthy Workplace Month, and October 18th is recognized as International Conflict Resolution Day. It’s an appropriate time to remind all members of the Defence Team how the Integrated Conflict and Complaint Management Program is working to build healthier workplaces and improve operational effectiveness by providing a new dynamic to conflict-resolution. ICCM is a new approach to how we manage conflicts and complaints, and provides more and better tools for members and leaders to improve their workplaces.

Workplace conflict can occur in any organization, and it is no different within the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. Personality differences, divergent viewpoints, misunderstandings and questionable behaviours are just some of the factors that can contribute to tension among colleagues—be it on a ship, or in an armoury, hangar or office.

So, what happens when workplace conflicts arise? If they linger unresolved, conflicts and complaints create stress and weaken morale. But when conflicts and complaints are addressed quickly, it’s easier to restore a healthy working environment and to focus on the task at hand. The ICCM is helping members and leaders to do just that through sixteen Conflict and Complaint Management Service centres at bases across Canada, and they are already having an impact.

These offices offer alternative dispute resolution services that all members of the Defence Team can access, to better understand the options available for addressing conflict or complaint. In addition, for military members, guidance is also available for concerns pertaining to harassment, Human Rights, grievances or workplace disputes. Members can access the program by e-mail, regular mail, phone, in person and on line.

CCMS agents are specifically trained in complaint management and resolution. Their role is to offer confidential and independent advice to anyone who feels they need help lodging or addressing a conflict or complaint. The program also tracks issues of any kind to ensure they are addressed and to provide leaders with situational awareness and the ability to manage conflict and complaints in their areas.

Creating and supporting healthier workplaces by reducing conflicts and the stress they cause is the responsibility of Leadership. Ensuring a conflict-free working environment is also a right and an obligation of every member of the Defence Team. During Healthy Workplace month, I encourage you to consider what you can do to improve your work place. Take the time to visit your local Conflict and Complaint Management Service Centre or visit them on line. They’ll show you how.

Thank you.

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