This blog is not another blog about Labour Law. It’s not about dismissals, CCMA arbitrations and Labour Court judgments. It’s not about misconduct, disciplinary hearings and written warnings. It is all about how we can create a workplace that prevents conflict in the first place. Not by suppressing it, or turning a blind eye. But by creating the right workplace culture through understanding; drawing from diversity; transparent and honest communication; cross-collaboration; skills training; leadership development and much more – it’ll always be a work in progress.
Meet me – I’m Barbara du Preez Ulmi. What makes me able to talk about these things, is not just that I am a former journalist who knows how to conduct desktop research beyond a Twitter feed. I also have years of management experience, especially in the SME sector. I draw my leadership insights from my time in the trenches as much as in boardrooms. I have always been the kind of leader who wants to be able to practically do, what I expect of others to deliver on. The kind of leader who is able to lead from the front, the middle and the back. The kind of leader who is only as strong as her tribe.
Tribal living may be another reason why I love talking about conflict prevention at the workplace. Growing up in Papua New Guinea in the 80s has certainly helped me see the world from a completely different angle. Walking the slums of Rio de Janeiro, and visiting HIV/Aids patients in rural South Africa opened my eyes as much as my work with the Lawyers for Human Rights; my involvement with independent mediation services, and my travels to the Ovambos, the Namas and the Masai. Equally, I have interviewed government officials in their boardroom suites; participated in corporate meetings in sky-scrapers; and planned out product roadmaps with IT experts.
While not an expert at parenting, but certainly trying to do my best, I have raised my first child as a single mother until she was 11 years old. I was working full time, for different employers, and I also freelanced and consulted. It was not an easy time, but it helped me realise that there are things that could be improved on at the workplace, and through labour legislation. It also showed me that more solidarity is needed, beyond labour unions.
I recently unified my practical experience with additional academic learning to gain deeper contextual insights: A postgraduate degree in Advanced Labour Law Dispute Resolution (CCMA Commissioner Training), a certificate course through the EIUC in “Disability as a Human Rights Issue – global and national perspectives”, and another one in Human Capital Trends by Deloitte and University of Columbia. But it is the real, dirty, raw hands-on experience that has instilled a passion in me for conflict prevention and peace creation not just at the workplace, but in myself, my family, my community and our world.
It is not about anyone’s colour, surname or origins. It is about their intent, heart and integrity. See the human being first.
Let’s rethink things.
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