Ineffective communication skills, lack of resolution skills and negotiation skills
October 2017 marked a difficult weekend for the national airline, Air Mauritius. Cancellation of flights, unhappy customers, grievances from pilots, suspension and threats are the main spices of the saga.
It all started when a group of pilots all at the same time fell sick and did not go to work which resulted in several flights being cancelled and thousands of passengers not being able to fly.
Management immediately opened an enquiry following this situation and this announced the start of more problems for the national airline and its staff. The management suspected that this was done on purpose by a group of pilots and the CEO Mr Somas Appavou publicly announced punitive actions against them following the break in operation and huge loss caused. (Lack of negotiation skills)
On the other hand, the pilots denounced the change in working conditions following the appointment of a politically active person to the post of CEO while at the same time threatening the former to quit the post. This incident was addressed by the commandant Michel G.A Bourgeois to the president of MK. (Ineffective communication skills)
On the 6 October 2017, following the press conference of the CEO of MK, 3 pilots were suspended with immediate effect and the foreign pilots were threatened of extradition. The police was also present at the door of the concerned pilots. (Lack of resolution skills)
AEA and MALPA said in a communiqué this was done to intimidate the staff and that these sanctions were unjustified. The Prime Minister replied by saying that the doings of the pilots were unacceptable and that he supports the management of MK. (Lack of negotiation skills and Lack of resolution skills)
During a session with 5-Plus, some said that it wasn’t their intention to have the flights cancelled but that it was the fruit of the wrong and unfair treatments the staff have been during the last few years.(Lack of Emotional Intelligence)
One of the pilots said that it was because there were no replacements that the flights were cancelled and that its been 2 years since the management have refused to set a meeting to discuss about issues in MK. (Ineffective communication and lack of communication)
Following this situation, the MALPA seek help form IFALPA. The prime argument being the working conditions to which they are confronted to.
The pilots said that:
- The Memorandum of Understanding was not respected
- The working conditions were changed without consultation
- The flight hours were changed
- The tickets offered to pilots were uncertain
- Salary decreased by 25%
- Leaves decreased from 42 days to 27 days
“If airplanes are flying it’s just because of the willingness of pilots to work although they should be on leave, there is a serious problem of resource and adding to that the salary has decreased considerably” said a pilot.
Moreover, the contract of the pilot Patrick Hoffman was suspended on the basis that the latter did not take a medical test which the syndicates of the union refute saying that Patrick Hoffman was never contacted to take a medical test.(Ineffective communication)
The AEA and MALPA circulated a letter to tell their members not to go to work when they are on leave. “During the last few years, we have constantly tried to have a meeting with the management to discuss issues but in vain, our willingness to do what’s good for the company has been cheated”. (Lack of communication and lack of resolution skills)
Several years have gone by with no communication between the cabin crew and management of MK, there is no efforts at all from the management, said a pilot. (Lack of communication and lack of resolution skills)
Conflict Management and Effective communication
The turbulence at Air Mauritius could have been avoided if there was a good communication between the management and the cabin crew. Good communication means that all exchanges are done between the parties with both parties paying attention and willing to listen what the other has to say.
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Its been few years now that the cabin crew and the management have not had a meeting to talk about different issues the national airline was facing. This gave rise to staff being discouraged with the working conditions and ultimately taking an action that would be inked in history forever. On the other side the fact that the pilots did not go to work which caused flights to be cancelled also got the attention of the management but the latter seem not interested in negotiations but rather seeking punitive and corrective actions against the culprits.
What the management should have done is to reunite all the stakeholders around a table to talk about the things they are not happy with, find a solution to satisfy both parties, enhance, facilitate and encourage communication for the betterment of the whole organisation.
We should note also forget that the credibility and image of the National airline has also been badly hit following this situation. The management should set a crisis management committee to manage conflicts as fast as possible. The minute that they were informed of the absence of pilots and potential cancellation of flights, the crisis management team should have gathered to find a solution as soon as possible. They could have looked for replacements for the pilots and at the same time send a team of customer relationship officers to the airport to give comfort to the passengers. (different offers could have been made to the passengers, example: offer bouquets, chocolates, dinner and shelter while waiting for the next flight but this would have cushioned the impact on the airline’s image)
After the absence of the pilots on the place of work, the management team publicly announced punitive actions and also sent police to the homes of the pilots who stayed at home due to sickness.
This was one of the most detrimental action that the management of MK could have taken. Not only did they not collaborate with the cabin crew for years but also changed there working conditions without any notice. Following absenteeism of the pilots and different reasons put forward for the cancellation of flights, the airline had already lost few wings and got a blow on its image. Instead of announcing publicly of the punitive measures and continue to move away from a consensus between cabin crew and management, the CEO should have gathered all the staff of the airline to sit and discuss about all their apprehension. In this way it would have given the staff a feeling of being valued and a sense of commitment from management to get things back on track.
Moreover, the police should not have gone to the homes of the pilots and take this matter to another level. What should have been done is encourage them to bring forward their points of dissatisfaction and find a consensus to resolve the matter.
The foreign pilots were also threatened of extradition and suspended. The Prime Minister on his part supported the management of Air Mauritius in their actions to condemn the culprits.
Lack of Emotional Intelligence
Lack of communication between management and cabin crew gives the impression that management does not care about the working conditions of the staff and all decisions are taken unitarily. The Prime Minister also supported management. Both the management and the Prime Minister could have tried to understand the situation of the cabin crew first before taking actions.
This shows lack of emotional intelligence.
Lack of communication and lack of resolution skills
Patrick Hoffman was suspended for failing to have a medical test done and syndicates refute by saying that no doctor or other party informed him of the medical test. This shows lack of communication between parties. For the past few years the cabin crew has furnished lots of efforts and willingness to meet with management to discuss about different issues but in vain. Lack of communication gave rise to more and more unsatisfied employees and ended in a chaos.
AEA and MALPA circulated a letter to tell their members to stay at home when they are on leave. This can be related to lack of resolution skills since this was announced publicly and no meeting was entertained with management to solve the issue, rather the Union asked staff to stay at home.
This situation brings about the problem of lack of resolution skills. Management and Union should have met to discuss about the problems of lack of replacement and find out a solution together to cater for this while at the same time engage in recruitment of cabin crew.
As a conclusion, we can say that the situation at Air Mauritius occurred because of lack of Emotional Intelligence, Ineffective communication and lack of resolution and negotiation skills.
In today’s competitive global business world effective communication and negotiation skills ca be considered as a necessary spice for success. Lack of efforts and commitment from management ended up in employees getting frustrated as their working conditions are deteriorating. This situation could have been more smoothly handled with management’s commitment and efforts to listen what its workforce has to say. Moreover the matter could have been solved within the organisation instead of each party going on press conference and communiqué.
As a last note we can say that the situation in which MK found itself can be used as a lesson for immediate actions to be taken to improve the situation of the company and both its internal and external customers.
Communication should be the foundation of a renewed collaboration between management and cabin crew. This will only get the MK flying high in the sky and provide sustainable growth.