Dealing with Dissidents

2010 article, rewritten October 2017   Being all things to all people? “There’s nowt so queer as folk” is a phrase (variously attributed to different parts of the British Isles) that reminds us that every individual is different and that some may appear to be irrational. Most community organisations welcome into their fold almost anyone who is interested in their activities, and that means that their membership is usually very diverse. That diversity may arise from more obvious differences such as age, sex, occupation, ethnicity, and education, but less obvious differences may relate to life experiences, health, medication, and personality type. The reality is that organisations cannot and should not try to be “all things to all people.” Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of the business networking organization, BNI, pointed out in a 2009 article that “When it comes to being a truly great organization, I believe that a jack-of-all-trades is a master of none.   Instead, I believe that you should focus on your organization’s core competencies.   Do what you are good at, and do it better than anyone else. … Don’t try to be all things to all people” (see Don’t try to be all things to all people). That statement reminds us that organisations need to be realistic, and it has implications when dealing with people within organisations; first, in any organisation disagreements will arise and sometimes (no matter what we do) that can be unpleasant and divisive, and, second, how we respond will influence the end result.   Community organisations – a reality check Most community organisations experience times when members disagree, and that can be healthy...

The Principles of Natural Justice – why they are important

Why the principles of natural justice are important “That’s not fair!” is common complaint of children. When children say that they are usually referring to what they consider to be unfair about a process they have been involved in (such as a decision on a disciplinary issue) or how other children have been treated in comparison with the treatment they have experienced. Although they and their parents may not realise it, when children say “that’s not fair!” they are calling on the principles of natural justice. From childhood, we all instinctively believe that: Investigative and decision-making processes should be “fair,” and If a decision-making process is “fair,” similar consequences will result from similar actions by similar people. Those beliefs sum up the principles of “natural justice.”   What are the principles of natural justice? Natural justice has been described as “fair play in action.” The requirements of natural justice depend on the circumstances of each particular situation and the subject matter under consideration. Accordingly, the specific requirements of natural justice and how rigorously they are applied varies according to the circumstances where they may be relevant (Furnell v Whangarei High Schools Board [1973] 2 NZLR 705 (PC) at 718). As the Law Commission pointed in the context of societies (in its Report 129, A New Act for Incorporated Societies, NZLC R129, June 2013, para 8.17): The two basic components of natural justice are: the person complaining or complained about has a fair opportunity to be heard on the matters in issue; and the decision-maker is free from bias (including apparent bias) or pre-determination. Those two basic elements can be...