This means war!

Career & Education

This means war!

Launching Leaders

with Debra Fraser

Sunday, January 12, 2020

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IN these tense political times, with the set-up of police/military checkpoints in several Jamaican towns and the threat of World War III on the global stage, leaders in general, and HR professionals in particular, ought to be mindful of the negative influence that local and foreign affairs can wield over their workforce. Tension, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are very real, often undetected, factors that can adversely affect team cohesion and an individual staff member's performance. These and other unaddressed personal and work-related issues can also have significant bearing on an organisation's overall performance. They manifest in increased irritability and disagreeableness, which tend to spark arguments and conflicts over the smallest of matters.

Local and foreign affairs aside, issues within the workplace — take sexual harassment for example — have even greater propensity to cause stress and anxiety among workers. Often, these conditions escalate when companies fail to recognise the importance of establishing meaningful off-duty relationships by creating a supportive ecosystem for team members who are experiencing challenges.

Conflict Resolution 2.0

In tandem with the increased awareness around the world in recent years of gender equality and workplace sexual harassment, many Jamaican companies have been making an effort to comply with legal and moral codes of conduct. However, many HR practitioners can attest that taming the monster of sexual harassment in the Jamaican context, in particular, is a Herculean task indeed. In a culture where displays of bravado and crassness towards females are often met with cheers from male counterparts, addressing the psychological barriers of behavioural change is difficult, in some cases impossible. Therefore, a preventive strike approach to mitigating potential conflicts — through intensive and continuous assessment at recruitment, and training during employment — is one of the best places to begin.

Win-Win Situation

The truth is, regardless of background, upbringing and socialisation, most intelligent human beings understand when another person does not want their affections. The challenge for leaders is to break down the company's guidelines in a manner and language so all team members get the message in a way they truly understand, for the situation could arise just because someone thinks that a particular phrase or action, even when rejected, is merely a way to poke fun and is not that serious.

The light at the end of the tunnel for organisations keen on developing a winning and harmonious team dynamic is to reassess current team members, and to follow up with ongoing team-building and sensitivity training. The big opportunity lies in developing a system to detect these characteristics at the recruitment stage.

This will require more than the usual face-to-face interview process. A complete social and psychological profile of each candidate is the new MO for getting a 360-degree analysis of who companies hire to represent their brand and core values — for, in the age of instant sharing and global reach, one posted conflict or toxic employee can make or break a company with the swipe of a finger.

Until next time, leaders, keep lookin' up!

Debra Fraser MBA, is CEO of Caribbean HR Solutions, a board member of the BPIAJ and the Global Services Sector, a member of the Human Resource Management Association of Jamaica, and Society of Human Resources Management. Please direct comments to or

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