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Conflict in Diverse Groups

Completion requirements

Managing a diverse workgroup will inevitably also mean dealing with the conflict associated with diversity. It is therefore essential that every manager equips him-/herself with the necessary skills to address the conflict.

The first very important skill is that you as manager need to distinguish between less serious and more serious diversity conflict:

  • Day to day personality or work routine conflicts can more often than not be addressed with relative ease - if it is handled skilfully and immediately. Managers should realise that if such conflict is ignored, it will result in bigger problems that might be very difficult to solve.
  • Direct discrimination such as racism, sexual harassment, insulting behaviour, or physical conflict is very serious. Your company should have policies to deal with these types of discrimination. Your policy will probably deal with these behaviours via your disciplinary and grievance procedures. Direct discrimination are often dismissible offences.

Every manager needs to be alerted to conflict situations. By not being aware of what is happening in his/her department, conflicts might be left unresolved and this might end up in a ‘boiling pot’ of unresolved conflicts, which might make a department very difficult to manage.

Teach your team conflict resolution skills. We will explore ways of enabling the individual members of your team to deal with smaller conflicts themselves. in this way conflict will be resolved at the very beginning, avoiding the ‘boiling pot’ situation. Only when they have gone through the process of resolving conflict themselves, should a third party (like yourself) be involved.

The manager as well as every employee should be aware of his/her rights and obligations in terms of diversity when it comes to handling conflict.

The Employment Equity Act is the main piece of legislation regulating diversity in South Africa. This act broadly regulates two areas in terms of equity, namely:

  • It prohibits any form of unfair discrimination on grounds of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation in the employment arena. This includes the full employment process from recruitment to termination.
  • It makes provision for employment equity measures to be put in place in order to redress the inequities of the past.

Various codes of good practice have been developed to guide employers and employees towards fair employment practices.

  • Code of Good Practice for Sexual Harassment
  • Code of Good Practice for HIV/AIDS in the Workplace
  • Code of Good Practice for Pregnancy and After Birth Care in the Workplace
  • Code of Good Practice for Disability in the Workplace

All these codes can be found in the website of the CCMA:

The CCMA has also developed two sets of guidelines aiding employers and employees towards fair employment practices, i.e.:

Discrimination: This guideline defines discrimination; distinguishes between fair and unfair discrimination and gives steps to handle unfair discrimination. 

Harassment: This guideline defines harassment; describes the rights and responsibilities of the employer and employee.