Implement the concepts of partnership, protection and progress in leadership relationships (Range: Apply to diverse cultural and ethnic leadership relationships)
Critically investigate the application of Treaty of Waitangi principles in leadership relationships (Range: Self and others at local, national and international levels)
I wish to share a professional experience in which, after analysis, the three principles of the Treaty of Waitangi were related to this context which environments included ethnical and cultural aspects and involved local, national and international circumstances.
I was an HR business partner appointed to support the Mine department in an industrial mining company in the South of New Caledonia. Louis-Pierre was the Mine manager. He had arrived two months formerly from Canada as an expatriate. He came to meet me as he was facing an issue with Robert, one of his five Mining operations Supervisors. The situation was that Robert was not managing his team fairly since. He is expected to manage a team of fifteen operators, he had never initiated disciplinary actions for a few members of his team since his appointment, whereas he should have done it. Others team members had been processed with disciplinary measures and, feeling unfairly treated, they contacted their union to address this problem.
Louis-Pierre was 40, when he had arrived two months ago in New Caledonia from Canada. He was an expatriate with a vast experience in his field of activity but New Caledonia was his first experience overseas.
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Robert is Kanak, was around 35. He had been recruited in this company as a Heavy duty operator eight years ago, than promoted 3 years ago as a Team leader, in charge to coordinate works of up to eight operators directly on the mining field. Then he had been appointed to a Supervisor role with higher demanding managerial position, five months ago. He is an inhabitant of Goro tribe, which is located at the boundaries of the company’s process plant and open pit. Robert had no particular title in the tribe… whereas 2 members of his team held specific responsibilities, one another was his maternal uncle and two others were in their fifties.
Myself, I was around 35. I was born and grew up in France before settling in New Caledonia ten years prior the present situation. I had learnt human resources on the job, evolved in this field and promoted several times. I had recruited Robert as a Heavy duty operator as well as I had recruited most of the staff in this department.
In Kanak culture and society, we have to keep in mind that:
- a lot of respect is due to people who holds responsibilities in the tribe.
- the first son of a couple is “given” to his maternal uncle.
- the Ancients are deeply respected and are given more consideration and importance than children.
Even though, they all were out of their tribe and in a professional context, Robert did not feel at ease to manage these five persons the same way than the ten others, which yet included operators living in the same tribe.
In this illustrated analysis of Robert’s relationships through the socio-ecological model (Bromfenbrenner, 1979), the interest lies in the involvement and interconnection of four nationalities and cultures.
1/ I spent time with Louis-Pierre to explain what Kanak culture and society imply in the work environment in New Caledonia and how he should take it into consideration to better manage his teams and achieve his operational goals. Louis-Pierre was open-minded enough to adapt in a fast manner and be considered as legitimate by local staff.
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2/ I organised a meeting between Robert and another Supervisor, Alice, 35, inhabitant of another tribe in the South of New Caledonia. Alice was managing her team in a fair manner and despite she was a woman, she had succeeded in being respected by her team mostly constituted of Kanak men and some of them came from the same tribe. This meeting contributed to help Robert in making a shift in his mindset.
3/ One of the five team members who received a preferential treatment could have a significant impact: Robert’s maternal uncle. Louis-Pierre and I met him to explain and demonstrate how his behaviour could be prejudicial to Robert, to the team and to the department. But not only: his behaviour was also demonstrating special favours could be awarded to a few Kanaks and disadvantaging meriting Kanak employees which were not some aspect he had already thought about. Moreover, his behaviour had enhanced the four other team members’ behaviour. He had not figured out this impact. Consequently, he had a talk to the four other team members to convince them they could not behave the same way.
4/ Louis-Pierre and I met the Union representatives in the company to inform them about actions we had undertaken and the follow-up we will do to avoid this situation to persist. We agreed to meet two months later to review the situation.
5/ Louis-Pierre and I met Robert. My role was to be supportive but not to replace Louis-Pierre in his managerial role. Even though we had kept him informed of our previous actions, this meeting’s purpose was to straighten Robert out and clarify Louis-Pierre’s expectations towards Robert. Louis-Pierre suggested to mentor Robert for the following months which Robert accepted.
After six months of mentoring, Robert was able to manage his team independently of his attachment to the tribe. He could treat equitably each member of his team and Louis-Pierre did not have to foresee moving Robert from his team to another.
This context // Principles of the Treaty of Waitangi:
Partnership: the situation was addressed through partnerships at each level.
- Louis-Pierre and I: our common goal was to help Robert to be the Supervisor he was expected to be. By working together to achieve this goal, we succeeded to easily identify actions.
- Louis-Pierre and Robert: their common goal was to run the mining activities as smooth as possible and each of them took actions to help each other to do their job at their best.
- Robert and his maternal uncle: their common goal was not to harm each other and enhance each other to do their job at their best and to become role models for their tribe.
- Louis-Pierre, Robert and Union representatives: their common goal was that the team members felt equitably considered and were collaborating in a positive work environment.
- Louis-Pierre and I: my role consisted in helping Louis-Pierre to better understand local specificities, advising him in any HR topics. My role was to avoid him further managerial problems and difficult relationships with Union representatives that would have penalised him from the beginning of his expatriation. He protected me by trusting me and relying on my experience in New Caledonia.
- Louis-Pierre and Robert: Louis-Pierre first demonstrated he wanted to protect Robert from being considered for a disciplinary measure (underachievement) and that he wanted to persevere. He proposed his assistance to mentor Robert and Robert, by accepting, considered to protect Louis-Pierre from further managerial issues or difficult relationships with Union representatives.
- Robert and his maternal uncle: this last one demonstrated his sense of protection towards Robert. He recognised he was misbehaving and changed his behaviour when he understood how much it was prejudicial to Robert. By this way, Robert was able to protect him from being side-lined by the others team members and to create a positive work environment for his uncle and the rest of the team.
- Louis-Pierre, Robert and Union representatives: despite the protection may be considered as coming from Louis-Pierre to protect himself from further grievances, the Union representatives protected Louis-Pierre by allowing him time to find solutions and do actions to fix the situation.
Each relationship displayed above and actions undertaken to fix the situation enhanced each party to help each other to progress towards a better future with positive outcomes for every stakeholder but also for the community. There was a high risk that the tribe where Robert lives could have suffered from conflicts born in the work place. New stakeholders out of the work environment should have been involved in case this situation would not have been addressed properly. A few conflicts born in the work place has already degenerated in tribes. These companies suffered from strikes, negative atmosphere, absenteeism, staff turnover…
In New Caledonia, due to the close link between a few unions and political parties, strikes can be appropriated for political reasons. Consequently, the tension can raise and lead to harsh social movements. Certain situations had required French authorities to have forces of order intervene. Example: social conflict Air Calédonie/USTKE on May 28th, 2009 that led the special forces to intervene as the Union President and a commando occupied the cockpit of an aircraft of the local airline company during an attempt to block the domestic airport of Nouméa-Magenta (CLER, 2009).
- BRONFENBRENNER, U. (1979). The Ecology of Human Development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
- CLER, J.-M. (2009). A Nouméa, l’USTKE est connue pour ses méthodes radicales. LE FIGARO. Retrieved from http://www.lefigaro.fr/actualite-france/2009/08/06/01016-20090806ARTFIG00009-a-noumea-l-ustke-est-connue-pour-ses-methodes-radicales-.php
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