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Jonathan Hamberger

First Name: Jonathan
Surname: Hamberger
Department Dept of Marketing and Management
Supervisor(s): Professor Paul Gollan ,

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Paper Title

Comparing public and private sector approaches to workplace dispute and grievances


The case studies relate to three private sector organisations (a Bank, a Manufacturer and a Retailer) and three public sector organisations (a State Government agency, a Commonwealth Government agency, and a University).

There is a lack of published research on workplace dispute and grievance settlement in Australia.

The paper uses the concept of comprehensive ‘conflict management systems’ developed by Lipsky, Seeber and Fincher.

The approach of each organisation to the resolution of workplace disputes and grievances is examined in relation to the following six features (derived from Lipsky et al.):

  • A proactive approach;
  • Shared responsibility by all levels of management;
  • Delegation of authority;
  • Accountability;
  • Ongoing training;
  • Feedback loop.

The results indicate that the approach of the three private sector organisations generally share these features. By contrast they are generally absent in all three of the public sector organisations.

The presentation will discuss some possible reasons for this difference between organisations in the public and private sectors, including lack of competitive pressure; a risk averse culture, poor leadership, and adversarial workplace relations.

The difficulty of drawing strong generalisations from a small number of case studies is acknowledged. However the findings suggest hypotheses that could be further explored.


The paper will use the results of case studies of six large Australian organisations to suggest that the public and private sectors may have distinct approaches to workplace dispute and grievances.