New program simplifies complaints and conflict resolution

The Integrated Complaint and Conflict Management program offers a one-stop process, guided by local staff who are trained in complaint management and supported by a central agency, to ensure consistent case handling, advice and investigation standards.
The Integrated Complaint and Conflict Management program offers a one-stop process, guided by local staff who are trained in complaint management and supported by a central agency, to ensure consistent case handling, advice and investigation standards.

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The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is implementing a new program to simplify the complaints and conflict resolution that integrates interest-based and rights-based processes.

The Integrated Complaint and Conflict Management (IC2M) program offers a one-stop process, guided by local staff who are trained in complaint management and supported by a central agency, to ensure consistent case handling, advice and investigation standards. It also offers a self-help website, modern registration and tracking software, and automated monthly reports.

Local specialists are enabling the chain of command, and guiding CAF members through the most effective way to deal with a wide spectrum of issues.

Leadership responsibility

The ability to reinforce cohesion and create team spirit requires trust, open communication, and a healthy work environment. In the military, complaint or conflict resolution has always been a leadership responsibility.

Although it is sometimes seen as time consuming, the chain of command must play a proactive and direct role in solving any ongoing issues, complaints or conflicts within their organization as these can have profound impacts on operational effectiveness.

By the nature of its size and uniqueness, the CAF has a complex web of mechanisms to deal with complaints or conflicts, which are not well understood.

Key challenges for the chain of command include effectively characterizing the issue so it can be addressed through the appropriate mechanisms, and fully grasping the concept of procedural fairness and natural justice, which is the standard expected by any external administrative court.

Key challenges for individual members include understanding the available mechanisms and complaint or conflict resolution services and the advantages that they offer, as well as trusting that their query for help or consultation will remain confidential and private.

Most effective solution

The preferred and most effective way to solve complaints and conflicts is through an informal, local, and early approach where the chain of command remains involved. An effective complaint resolution system enhances military performance and operational effectiveness.

CAF members feel trusted and supported. Solving complaints or conflicts informally, locally, and in a timely fashion through long lasting solutions plays a key role and has a direct impact in building trust, increasing confidence, and improving open communications. These elements are directly linked with operational effectiveness. When members feel valued, trusted, and supported by their chain of command, they become force enablers.

CAF members have clear understanding of expected behaviours. The timely management of conflicts through unbiased resolution provides clear direction and sets boundaries for behaviours that are acceptable or unacceptable. At the same time, this practice reinforces existing codes of conduct, values, and ethics. This approach also influences a cultural shift toward a respectful workplace: it increases members’ self-confidence and their ability to work effectively within a team setting.

CAF members can focus on a given task. Research and surveys have clearly demonstrated that unresolved conflicts can have a negative impact on someone’s ability to focus on assigned tasks. Unresolved issues may fester and compound over time, and these issues can have a long lasting and negative effect on all parties involved. When handled properly, complaint or conflict resolution can motivate an individual or a team toward positive growth and change. With a clear mind, members are able to focus on their operational tasks.

CAF members feel educated and more inclined to use conflict resolution mechanisms.  Through timely training delivery and professional development, members are made aware of the full spectrum of complaint resolution mechanisms. This fosters ownership and early, local, informal intervention first, which can expedite conflict resolution, reduce associated costs, and increase effectiveness.

At the institutional level, an effective complaint resolution system enables efficiencies. It is also proven that resolution tends to be more complete and durable because it is created and agreed to by parties or groups involved. Such a system reinforces the Defence Team’s various ethos and ethics frameworks, which are at the core of military culture though norms, beliefs, values, and behaviors. Increased cultural awareness creates a healthier work environment, less inclined to conflict.

The chain of command should not be judged by the fact that there are complaint or conflicts within their organization, but by their ability to effectively deal with them and use them as opportunities to strengthen their operational effectiveness.

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