Bath AUA

Bath AUA providing local support to help you enhance your career, boost your job prospects and create valuable networking opportunities

Posts By: Iain Forster-Smith

Seeing the big picture: attending an AUA conference

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Author: Alison Ryan, Faculty Coordinator - Faculty of Engineering and Design

On Friday 3 February I attended the AUA South Wales and South West Conference 2017 in Cardiff. Having never attended an AUA conference before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I was really looking forward to finding out.

Chance to network

After an early start and a train journey followed by a bracing walk from Cardiff Central Station, we arrived at the Park Plaza hotel in good time for a much needed coffee and a pastry, or two! There was a good turn out from Bath as well as attendees from the Universities of Cardiff, Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth and Gloucestershire to name a few. This was a great opportunity to meet people from other universities.

The big picture

Our very own Angela Pater, also the AUA Regional Network Coordinator, opened the conference with a warm welcome and introduced the first speakers, Victoria Holbrook from Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and Lisa Newberry from Universities Wales.

Victoria and Lisa discussed the future HE landscape, providing external perspectives of upcoming major changes and opportunities. Victoria explained that HEFCE would be replaced by the Office for Students (OfS) in 2018 and the OfS would also have a new focus as the single market regulator for HE. The opening talks were really informative and I particularly enjoyed learning more about the big picture of HE.

Doing the privilege walk

There were a range of workshops to choose from and for the morning session, I picked ‘Ensuring Inclusive Education’ run by Fflur Elin, the NUS Wales President. This thought-provoking workshop gave us a different perspective of how social situations and conventions could affect students in a variety of ways.

Fflur was a brilliant facilitator and had us up on our feet participating in the ‘privilege walk’, which was an activity designed to visually show how students could either benefit from, or be held back by, certain characteristics or situations (such as their gender or needing to work part time). We were each given a list of different characteristics and stood next to each other in a long line. We then took steps forwards or backwards, depending on the persona we had been given.

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Fflur Elin, NUS Wales President.

Inspirational speakers

There were many inspiring speakers and although I can’t talk about them all here, I will briefly mention one. In the afternoon, Steve Egan did Bath proud and delivered a very engaging talk about his journey to his current role at Bath, Vice-President (Implementation). Steve’s talk was very well received and included many amusing but also inspiring anecdotes about his career so far.

So when’s the next one?

I really enjoyed the day; it was an interesting and valuable experience and I would definitely like to attend future conferences. It was a great opportunity to gain a broader understanding of HE, listen to a variety of talks and to meet other people working in the sector. If you get the chance to attend an AUA conference or event, sign up now!

 

AUA Talks University priorities: Workforce Strategy – Richard Brooks

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Author: Sarah Stead, Student Experience Officer - Faculty of Engineering and Design

A Workforce for the Future is how Richard Brooks summed up his fascinating talk about the current Workforce Strategy, agreed by Council at the end of 2016.

Richard started his talk on a slightly worrying note stating that when you google jokes about Workforce Strategy you get very few search results! But we didn’t need to worry – Richard kept the audience interested and engaged with information and insights that gave everyone food for thought.

Richard described the strategy as a bridge between the University led drivers for change to making things happen and explained the importance of developing strategic leaders, actively managing talent, developing performance, building resilience and ensuring the university has lean, responsive, self-service procedures moving forward.

Personally I will take away his comment about performance targets “What is the point of setting targets when you don’t know how you are going to meet them” I think we could all benefit from remembering that from time to time!

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Richard Brooks

Director of Human Resources - University of Bath

 

See one, do one, teach one… apparently the same rule applies to training!

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Author: Jenny Medland, Student Experience Officer & Suzanne Jacobs, Assistant Registrar - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

See one, do one, teach one… apparently the same rule applies to training! Having attended useful externally delivered training sessions on how to have productive Difficult Conversations and Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness in the Workplace our line manager suggested that we develop a joint presentation for other Faculty colleagues on what we had learned. There was such a natural overlap between the topics we agreed that this would be a good idea. This meant, amidst all the excitement of the run up to Christmas, we ended up sitting in front of a computer screen trying to work out the best way to consolidate two days of wide-ranging training into an hour session.

In our planning meeting, we started by sharing our key takeaways from our respective sessions. This was done in order to identify a shared message: the importance of being empathetic and ‘mindful’ both in discussion with others and in reflecting on our own behaviour. We didn’t want to overload attendees with information and ideas, so identifying this message helped keep the session focused and succinct. We were also keen to emphasise why the session and concepts discussed would be useful to attendees – they help in managing stress and improving working relationships and communication – to show the value of the techniques discussed. Finally, we wanted to make sure the training had lots of practical exercises to avoid it feeling like a dry lecture to our peers and to instead give an opportunity for discussion and the sharing of ideas and advice.

We began our talk by defining Emotional Intelligence (EQ) (an individual’s abilities of recognising, understanding and choosing how they think, feel and act) and Mindfulness (paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally), discussing how they are important in helping manage stress and improving relationships. We gave attendees a quiz to help them assess their own EQ to help contextualise these potentially abstract concepts, and provided a list of links and resources for those interested in finding out more.

For the second half of the talk, we used Mindfulness and EQ as tools to be applied in managing difficult conversations more productively, offering a practical application of what can be seen as an abstract concept. Using three key ‘types’ of Difficult Conversations, we spoke about how being self-reflective (identifying and developing your own stressors, strengths and weaknesses) and empathetic (sensitive and open to the other’s perspective) can help. We then ended by splitting the room into groups of three who roleplayed a scenario of a difficult conversation, where participants had to apply these skills.

We both found running this session really helpful in cementing our own understanding and processing of the training and ideas discussed. It was also interesting to be able to share ideas and perspectives with colleagues, both in the training session itself and in developing the session together beforehand. While there was a limit to the amount of detail or practice possible in such a short session, the feedback from the participants was really positive. A number of people indicated that they would endeavour to be more mindful and EQ aware in their subsequent conversations and working relationships. Many also indicated that they would be seeking further details after the meeting, following up on some of the additional sources of information provided.

 

AUA Talks University Priorities - Professor Bernie Morley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost

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Author: Rachel Acres, Assistant Registrar, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Professor Morley began by outlining the breadth and diversity of his role as Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, which included responsibility for education, research, staffing, and of course, that perennial issue - car parking. His main focus was on delivering the University Strategy, and challenging the Deans (who he line-managed) to ensure all Departments had their own strategies, including a clear plan for academic staff recruitment for the next five years.

Student number planning and target setting was a core part of Professor Morley’s job, ensuring that the number of offers and conversion to places was spot on, which always made the summer a nerve-racking time. Supporting teaching and research through ensuring appropriate infrastructure is the other main tenet of the role of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost.
Professor Morley reported that the University is facing a number of external pressures which mean that our previous working assumptions may not be true in the future.

Professor Morley highlighted the five key priorities for the University, as laid out in the University Strategy 2016-21:

• Growth of research – the University would prioritise areas of investment increasingly based on returns and the ability to support other areas, e.g. allowing us to continue to offer expensive subjects such as Chemistry. Four years of fixed student fee income with rising costs meant the Senior Management needs to focus on ensuring financial stability.

• Stabilise undergraduate numbers – there is increasing competition as other institutions are offering more places, and moreover the opportunity for placements (a previously unique selling point – USP – for Bath). Changes to GCSE and A Levels may necessitate revised entry requirements and could result in a dip in applications for those programmes requiring A Level Mathematics (which is supposed to be more difficult in its new form). A demographic dip in the number of young people means less people entering Higher Education, at least for the next few years – apparently, there is a boom in primary aged children but for example, the city of Bath has 600 unfilled sixth form spaces. Opportunities for involvement in Degree Apprenticeships would be explored. The University needs to ensure its programmes are as up to date and innovative as possible, supported by effective marketing (e.g. more Open Days, more mobile friendly platforms to showcase our programmes and maintain market advantage).

• Postgraduate Growth – compared to other research intensive institutions, the University had relatively small postgraduate taught student numbers. A number of new postgraduate taught programmes had been fast-tracked through University approval procedures to recruit students for 2017/18, and Professor Morley emphasised that the institution needed to view postgraduate provision differently. Masters programmes needed to attract higher numbers of students, delivering a package of skills and cross-disciplinary learning. Providing distance-learning programmes with partners (including internationally) was being considered. Professional Services would need to be involved in supporting this growth and ensuring the development of staff to meet the new challenges facing the institution.

• Infrastructure – Professor Morley highlighted recent successful developments such as 10 West, 4 East South, Manvers Street, and noted Polden Court would be developed to provide new postgraduate accommodation in the next year

• International focus – the University needed to affirm its international influence and become more visible.

In closing, Professor Morley highlighted that there were a number of external influences, including changes to secondary level education, the need to comply with consumer legislation and Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) guidance, the introduction of the Higher Education and Research Bill and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), and the evolving Widening Participation agenda which would all impact on University business and were being closely monitored.

 

My Fellowship of the AUA – a reflection

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Author: Iain Forster-Smith, Director of Administration, Faculty of Engineering & Design

As a member of the professional services team your main focus is always those you need to support.  Ensuring you do your upmost to provide everyone with what they need, from the staff you manage to colleagues and students both internal and external.

Finding time to reflect on your own professional development and achievements can sometimes be left on the back burner for another day. One day my boss, Gary Hawley (Dean, Faculty of Engineering & Design), told me to have a reflective day and spend a bit of time on things I needed to do.

So I did, I reopened the work I had started well over a year ago on the AUA Members site to finally submit my Fellowship application. The members site has a fantastic tool that enables you to easily capture all your personal development activity as well providing you with tools to support your own personal development plan.

For me applying for this Fellowship cements a number of key areas. My dedication to the Higher Education sector, there are many other types of fellowships I could have applied for, the AUA Fellowship signifies my work within the sector and has an amazing personal achievement for me. I believe firmly that your own and team development is vital to keeping ahead of the game and ensures we are all preparing for the future. Being a Fellow of the AUA, recognises that I have developed my own skills and knowledge, as well as showing that I have worked with others on their own personal development, and I have positively been able to influence others.

The process may seem an effort at first glance, but to be honest the effort is very little compared to the satisfaction you gain when successful in your application.

 

 

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My tips to anyone who is considering applying to become either an Accredited Member of Fellow of the AUA would be to, keep up to date your personal development record on the AUA, reflect positively on your achievements and use the AUA CPD Framework to help you focus on what is needed. Everyone should have a critical friend who can read through your statement and provide you useful insight on your achievements. Finally, think wisely about your references, the people chosen must know how you commit yourself to both your own development and supporting the development others (depending on your role). Don’t put it off, with the Christmas break ahead it’s a perfect time to begin reflecting – so get cracking.
If you are interested in knowing more I will be setting up an interactive workshop in early 2017 for members to come along and start working through advancing their membership – so watch this space!

 

AUA Talks University priorities: The Centre for Learning and Teaching – Professor Andrew Heath (Academic Director)

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Author: Jenny Medland, Student Experience Office, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

What attributes should a graduate leave the University of Bath with? How can we respond to the challenges Brexit or changes to A-levels pose to student recruitment, or to the opportunities of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF)? How can we integrate effective and efficient technologies for learning? These are the type of questions the new Centre for Learning and Teaching (CLT) will be looking at, and at this AUA event its Academic Director Professor Andrew Heath outlined its remit and initial plans.

The session began by establishing the CLT’s role in securing the future success of the University of Bath: a strong learning experience supports student satisfaction, student satisfaction aids recruitment of strong students, robust recruitment protects the University’s income and elite reputation. The changing nature of the HE landscape – with Brexit, TEF, and general economic uncertainty to name but a few challenges – makes it particularly important that Bath can respond proactively and capitalise on potential opportunities. The CLT will help equip Bath to meet these changes by ensuring the highest levels of learning and teaching across the institution.

More practically, to achieve its aims the CLT will provide proactive support for key learning and teaching activities such as TEF, and work more widely on the development and improvement of learning experience provide by Bath. There are four main areas within the centre:

- Academic Staff Development
- Technology Enhanced Learning
- Student Engagement
- Curriculum Development

In a fifty minute session Andrew could only provide a brief overview of his priorities for each area, but it gave a useful insight into plans. Academic Staff Development will be focusing on increasing the number of staff across the institution with formal teaching qualifications, an area of increasing importance as this will be publically available and will most likely be reported in league tables in the future. Technology Enhanced Learning will be delivering on a University-wide strategy ensuring that development activities and technological investment are effective and aligned with strategic priorities. Student Engagement will be identifying opportunities for students to actively contribute to the development of their programmes. And, last but not least, CLT will support Curriculum Development through working with departments to review and develop their programmes through TraCA (Transforming Curricula and Assessment), largely replacing the current degree scheme reviews. This latter work with focus particularly on aligning our curricula for both technical content and academic skills with the desired attributes for graduates on particular programmes, reducing overassessment of students and work to develop and implement more creative ways of teaching and assessing student progress.

The CLT will aim to work in close partnership with academic departments and other services, providing coordinated central support and guidance whilst still ensuring departments have ownership of their programmes, curriculum, and academic priorities. You can find out more through their website: http://www.bath.ac.uk/learningandteaching/about/index.html

 

AUA Talks University priorities: SU Top 10

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Author:  Tom Bond, Postgraduate Research Administrator, Faculty of Engineering & Design

The AUA was pleased to host Lucy Woodcock, SU President and Amy Young, Representation & Engagement Manager, who presented a whirlwind tour of this year’s Top 10 student issues to be dealt with.

This was a great opportunity for staff from across the university to be exposed to problems faced daily, monthly and yearly by our students, and gives us a great insight into the work going on behind the scenes conducted by the SU in to tackling them.

The top 10 issues for 2016/7 are:
• Campaign for sustainable student recruitment policies in relation to housing availability
This is a hot topic, with increasing student numbers and a shifting focus to postgraduates who notoriously struggle more than the undergraduate population to secure affordable accommodation.

Bath is a small town and simply can’t offer the same level of housing stock that larger cities do, but the SU and University are committed to battling the ongoing problem of available housing.

• Make it easier for students to locate available study space
Space is a premium on campus, and the SU are currently working on a plan to have an app in place by the start of 2017/8 academic year that will allow students to easily locate available working spaces/rooms across campus – improving on the current room booking system that is more staff-orientated.

• Improve University and Students’ Union provision for students outside of term time
Efforts are being made to improve provisions for students who remain on campus outside of term-time, including: shop/eatery opening hours, the development of a programme of events over summer/Christmas, and ensuring vital services such as Student Counselling remain at optimum performance during these periods.

• Secure a physical expansion of the gym
The SU has already scored a big win here, securing a £3.5m investment into a new gym facility that will improve provision of sports/exercise classes, as well as providing more equipment and exercise stations on top of the already impressive STV facilities currently available.

There will be an effort to give priority to student memberships over those of the general public to ensure satisfaction of the student body.

• Ensure that students receive constructive assessment feedback that helps them learn
We need to ensure that assessment feedback received by students is constructive, and allows them to build and improve on their work as a result.

The SU is working closely with the Centre for Learning & Teaching to ensure current best practice is spread across the university to make this happen.

• Campaign for the curricula to reflect the diversity of the student body
The student body on campus is hugely diverse, with over 100 nationalities represented. It’s paramount that this is reflected in the University’s curricula.

It is hoped that the University could use this work as part of a bid for the Race Equality Charter Mark .

• Reduce waste across campus
The University is making concerted efforts to improve on waste disposal across campus, an excellent example being the Leave No Trace campaign that encourages using re-usable cups at coffee/tea vendors across campus by offering discounts to those who do.

There is a growing issue of homelessness in Bath, and Lucy rightly presented this as an opportunity to put food waste on campus to good use – there is too much perfectly good, freshly made food that is simply thrown away at the end of each day.

• Ensure the personal tutoring system is effective for students and staff
The personal tutoring system needs to work for both staff and students, and in collaboration with the Senior Tutors Forum, the SU is focused on identifying best practice from across the institution, and also areas for improvement.

• Tackle postgraduate isolation
There is an evident lack of community among some postgraduates at the university, and the SU is working hard to identify the key problems and address then.

The expectations of postgraduates when they arrive are being reviewed, in relation to events, societies and other provisions that otherwise work well for the undergraduate population, with a view to improving/providing additional provisions for the postgraduate population.

For the first time this year there has been a dedicated Postgraduate Officer appointed (Adam Kearns), tasked with the responsibility of ensuring a great postgraduate student experience.

• Secure an extension of the Library
Like the gym, the SU are also working on a plan to extend the current space available in the library. An area of land to the North of the library has been identified for a possible expansion sight, which would offer perhaps a new lecture theatre as well as more working/computer space.

A suggestion has also been put forward to improve the e-journal facilities, and reduce the number of paper journals on level 1, freeing up space for more work stations.

Lucy would like plans for this provision secured by the end of her presidency.

 

AUA Talks Sector Issues: CMA and Immigration

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Author: Sally Lewis, Placements Officer, Faculty of Science

The first AUA talk of this year was given by Mark Humphriss, the University Secretary, who gave a very informative insight into the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and immigration - two of the significant issues facing universities today.

Mark began his talk with a brief career history, explaining how his move into higher education at Bath 10 years ago followed 17 years working in a number of roles for the Church of England, including leading a major review of the structures of the Church and working for a national charity and a secondment in the North East. It was through his role managing relationships with the 11 universities of Church of England foundation that he began to have contact with universities and recognised the similarities between the two sectors – both having similar policy issues and working cultures.

Commenting on his move into a new sector, he noted how helpful he found his professional association (the AHUA – the Association of Heads of University Administration) in connecting him with others in HE and enabling him to gain an understanding of the working culture.

In his current role, Mark is part of the senior management of the University - part of the Vice- Chancellor’s Group (VCG) - and has a number of University-wide roles, including chairing the Equality and Diversity Committee and the Emergency Management Team – which has to deal with anything from heavy snow falls on Claverton Down to a field trip stuck in Honduras. On a departmental level, his responsibilities include the Secretariat, the Legal Office and student immigration. Reputation management is a big part of his role and responding to a question about Freedom of Information (FoI), he described the tension between the desire of universities to be open in how they respond to FoI requests and the way in which information once in the public domain, can be used to cause less favourable impressions of those organisations.

Responsibility for events such as degree ceremonies and the operational side of the recent 50th Anniversary celebration also fall under Mark’s remit as does managing the relationship with the Chancellor, which with our current Chancellor, means working within royal protocols as well. The Government’s counter-terrorism Prevent strategy has involved Mark in some interesting and robust discussions with the UCU and the Students’ Union when negotiating policies for external speakers.
Externally, Mark is part of the National Executive of the AHUA and has previously chaired its southern region. He is a Governor of the RUH, a Director of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator and a Trustee of the Holburne Museum.

Moving on to discuss the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Mark explained that in the last few years the CMA (formerly the Office of Fair Trading) has begun to focus on the practices of higher education institutions and concluded that the university sector was perceived to have too much freedom from consumer regulations, with some institutions levying academic sanctions (such as withholding degree confirmation) for non-academic matters (such as the non-payment of rent) for example.

The CMA has concluded that students (paying £9,000 a year in tuition fees) should be regarded as consumers for the purpose of consumer legislation. This has had a number of far reaching consequences for universities – a number of whom have been publicly named as falling short of CMA legislation. Here at Bath, Mark chairs the Consumer Regulation Steering Group and much work has been done - with Terms and Conditions now being sent to every offer holder and trying to ensure that all information provided on (our over 100,000) web pages and at Open Days, will remain valid throughout the duration of a course. This may involve more generic and less detailed information being in the public domain with students receiving more detailed information about courses once here. He noted that there can be a tension between the desire for transparency and the desire to innovate and progress with course development. Failure to comply with CMA legislation can have financial penalties although the reputational damage of such failure would potentially be more detrimental.

Mark concluded his talk by discussing the significant consequences for universities of the current political agenda around immigration. Attendance monitoring of students holding Tier 4 visas is a mandatory requirement for universities. Failure to meet requirements can lead to a university losing its license to sponsor visas – resulting in the institution not being able to recruit international students and its current students having to leave the country, a huge impact for any institution. At Bath the increase in processes and resource needed to fulfil this requirement has led to the recent establishment of the Student Immigration Service of 13 staff. Universities also have to operate in an environment where rule changes have been brought into force with little or no notice or consultation with the sector. This was illustrated in April this year, where changes resulted in those students extending their course - to undertake a placement, for example - having to return to their home countries at short notice to extend their visas. As well as concerns for students, Mark also noted concerns for the implications of changes on international staff.

… and with that our time was up. Many thanks to Mark for his time and for this glimpse into the working life of our University Secretary.

 

Reflections on the AUA PG Certificate – year 1

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Author: Sally Lewis, Placements Officer, Faculty of Science

I began studying for the AUA’s PG Certificate in Higher Education Administration, Management and Leadership in October last year. This is a two year, distance learning course supported by three study days – mine have been in London – and is validated by Nottingham Trent University.
Although I have worked at the University for a fair few years, my previous roles were within an externally funded research unit (UKOLN) and it was only when I moved into my current role, within the Faculty of Science Placements Team, that I fully appreciated the range of professional service roles operating within HE and I was keen to increase my knowledge of the sector. My move coincided with the relaunch of the AUA Bath branch and I started going along to their events - including some informal coffee meets - where I got to know people from across the university and to hear about other development opportunities.

The PG Cert appealed because it offered me the opportunity to increase my knowledge and understanding of the HE sector and explore current issues. Fundamental to the course is the integration of knowledge into your own working practices – you gain very practical rather than theoretical and abstract knowledge. The self-directed nature of the course and the variety of options means that you can choose topics to study to suit your own interests and development needs. The first year consists of three assignments – each assessed by a 3,000 word essay. Having not had any experience of essay writing at postgraduate level before, this was the first skill that I had to develop, which I did with support provided through the programme’s online learning resources (and a visit to the drop-in writing centre on campus, highly recommended!). I chose to focus on: 1. Developments in the student voice; 2. The purpose and role of student support and guidance and 3. Current trends in the corporate governance of HEIs in the UK. Each of the assignments required me to look at the topic from my own institution’s perspective which gave me the opportunity to meet with colleagues from across the University - and I am grateful to all colleague who shared their insights and expertise with me. I was able to relate the knowledge I was acquiring in my first two assignments to my work supporting students and the third assignment gave me the opportunity to learn about an area of which I had very little previous knowledge.

I am now starting on the second year of the programme – which is quite different in structure and focusses on developing reflective working practices …more of which later!

If you are interested in finding out more about the course, please do get in touch.

 

 

Difficult Conversations

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Author: Jenny Medland, Student Experience Officer - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

It’s not often you’ll take time on a Wednesday morning to discuss whether you’re an elephant or a dolphin but that’s the position I found myself in when I attend the ‘Difficult Conversations’ training delivered by Mediation at Work.

The day-long workshop offered a mix of theory, group discussion and extremely helpful roleplaying exercises. I attended the training as I’m new to line management, but have found the content and advice really useful in all aspects of my role, including some of the trickier meetings!

We looked at the three kinds of difficult conversations you’re most likely to have in the workplace, and below I’ve summarised my key takeaways on how to manage them constructively.

1)      Giving Bad News: Own it! It can be tempting to evade responsibility, but people will respect honesty and straight forwardness. Be honest, direct, and allow the other person time to process and the opportunity to come back with questions.

2)      Addressing Conflict: Validate rather than justify. If someone is criticising or commenting on your behaviour, rather than jump to being defensive take the time to listen to what they’re saying, validate their perspective through active listening, and move the conversation on by focusing on a potential compromise or shared goal.

3)      Giving Difficult Feedback: Start off by asking for permission to offer feedback e.g. “I’d like to talk to you about your behaviour in that meeting – is this OK”? Giving permission immediately makes people more responsive to hearing feedback and makes the conversation a two-sided discussion.

The best bit of advice I was given was probably the simplest – prepare yourself! Whilst you can’t ‘script’ a difficult conversation, identifying your own ‘default conflict behaviour’ (Kilmann’s conflict mode instrument is a helpful starting point); picking an appropriate setting/time and planning a rough structure for the conversation (we discussed the DESC model as a good one to use) can help keep the situation calm and you confident.

Find out more about the courses offered by Mediation at Work through their website.