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Conflict Management Using Game Theory 

By Devan Moonsamy

Game theory was developed by John Nash and other mathematicians and strategists to help deal with complex problems, initially the nuclear standoff between Russia and the US which threatened everyone, not only these two nations.

Game theory is not a simple theory, it is quite complex, but it does help predict the best way forward with more accuracy. It has been successfully applied in business, negotiation and economic contexts.

Contrary to its name, it does not mainly deal with recreational activities, but rather with more serious events with greater consequences. It is not one theory, but a collection of theories based on research in all manner of contexts. In our everyday relationships, the theory has a few very helpful things to teach us. Let’s examine them.

Firstly, through running simulations of all kinds of situations, and taking into account that we cannot fully predict the reactions of other players, it was found that the best first move to make in any situation – the one most likely to succeed – is simply to cooperate.

If we want to achieve success in our relationships, we should cooperate. It may not always lead to a win-win outcome initially. Occasionally it will have no positive effect because the other party may refuse to cooperate and there is nothing we can do to dissuade them. Some people only engage with others in order to compete. They play only to win (to be seen as better than everyone else in some way); they don’t play to play (such as enjoying one’s work, cooperating, and achieving team goals).

Nevertheless, cooperating upfront usually creates the conditions for achieving peace, and helps curb resentment and further tension. Game theory also shows that fairness begets fairness.

There may be times when we must refuse to cooperate, such as when someone tries to get us to do something illegal or that would injure someone. We would need to be firm and state our reasons for not complying. We can, however, show a spirit of cooperation despite refusing to go along with their wishes. We can do so by offering an alternative to them, and offering to assist them in an ethical/legal manner if possible.

For example, a coworker might want us to help them steal from the company. Perhaps they are having a hard time financially, or perhaps it is greed. Whatever the cause, we can encourage them not to steal because it could lead to them losing their job and going to jail. In the long term, they will lose rather than gain, including through guilt and sleepless nights.

Offer an alternative: Why not ask the company for a raise to help with increasing expenses; ask for an interest-free loan from the company, friend or relative to see you through a tough time; or go to the bank to apply for credit? It might even be time to find another position, or work towards one with a higher pay grade.

Remind them that they might gain a little in the short term by stealing, but they can gain much more by working towards long-term goals in an honest way, especially when people respect them. Do they really want to damage their relationship with you? They are putting you in a difficult position. But you will not choose them over your own career. You will not compromise the collective good because stealing decreases profit, which leads to higher costs, and hurts everyone’s chances of getting a raise.

Secondly, teams that cooperate achieve more and better results than individuals alone. Groups are able to learn how the system works and adapt their strategy faster than individuals alone. Working in groups is challenging, and conflict inevitably arises. However, working through such conflict together and not giving up on others is the best possible strategy to follow.

It is more productive to invest time in our relationships at work rather than ignoring or abusing them. While individuals may seem to benefit from acting selfishly, the benefits are limited and inevitably hurt them.

Let’s consider an example of how being uncooperative in a team is destructive. We are considering the field of biology. There are such things as ‘selfish cells’. These are in fact cancerous cells. A tumour grows when a cell is very unhealthy, but instead of dying, it gets out of control and makes endless copies of itself at the expense of the rest of the body.

The outcome of this selfishness is that the cell and its copies damage and can eventually kill the very thing that was keeping them alive. Cancerous cells are thus removed or killed off by treatments such as chemotherapy.

On the other hand, everyone benefits from cooperation and avoiding proliferating negativity. It is also interesting to note that the vast majority of cells have an autodestruct gene, meaning that they simply die out of their own if there is something wrong with them. If they are rouge cells and don’t self-destruct, the body usually gets rid of them before they can do damage.

In the end, most unhealthy cells do not last long. We may just need to be patient, wait it out, and continue to pursue happiness and cooperation in our lives and work as best we can. Eventually, most trouble-makers leave. If they are still around, seek shelter and foster good relationships in your team and co-workers.

Thirdly, assumptions about others reduce our rationality. When we make assumptions about others before getting to know them as individuals, we reduce our ability to make sound decisions. If we have negative assumptions about certain people or groups, they notice this, and they will respond usually by closing up towards us in order to protect themselves. It thus becomes difficult to communicate, build trust and achieve goals. If we behave and speak from a prejudiced stance, we can also find ourselves in a disciplinary hearing.

Game theory teaches us that we need to work and make decisions without and in spite of such negative beliefs and assumptions if we are to succeed in the workplace and in our relationships.

Racism and Sexism are ‘Offensive’… So What?

By Devan Moonsamy

Do we truly understand what racism and sexism are? Do we truly understand why it is offensive, and why it should end? The word offensive has been overused in the context of discrimination. It feels like it has a weak meaning.

What is this offence caused? We need to go deeper. Racism and sexism cause pain. That is something we seem to miss in all this mess of accusations and flaring tempers. Discrimination tells the target that they are not good enough simply because of certain physical features, but which do not fully define who they are in any case.

Certainly, our gender, race and colour do determine some things about us – and we should all be proud of the positive aspects of our heritage. However, it is extremely hurtful when these features are used as an excuse for ‘less than’ treatment.

Racism and sexism lead to anger. People want to get even, often more than even, because it is not the first time they have faced such treatment and the pain and frustration has built up inside them. It is thus a case sometimes of the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Racist or sexist remarks and acts of discrimination tell the victim that they are inferior and will never be anything other than what the racist or sexist defines them as. This is ‘offensive’, yes, but let’s forget about that word for now. Let’s focus on the fact rather that it causes immense pain, sometimes long-term or life-long distress which, while people may hide very well for a time, is no less a reality.

It damages a person’s and even an entire population’s sense of self-worth, and it oppresses them. It may force them to accept a lower position, which there is no valid reason for them to occupy, at least until they fight back and reclaim equality.

What has happened about the allegations of sexism at the African Union Commission?

Institutionalised or politically sanctioned racism and sexism are out. However, there is a subtle dimension of racism and sexism which currently exists and which we may take for granted. We can see it in the sexism problems in the AU Commission which became public last year. Women in the AU called male colleagues’ behaviour ‘professional apartheid against female employees’.

Let’s cut through some of the jargon there. In just one statement, one of the alleged misogynists at the AU said to his new superior, a woman, ‘I’m still in charge here.’ So that’s offensive of course. But so what? What does that mean?

It means that the only reason this woman – a professional who had already gone far by making it into a senior position at the AU Commission – made it was because men allowed her there. Not

because she earned it, not because she deserves it, or because she has important work to do. Only because men allowed it, and whatever she thinks she has to contribute, that’s not welcome.

The same is true of people of colour in many cases whereby whites continue to have a feeling of superiority or patronising view. It is as if they think, ‘We let you into the organisation because the government says we must, and we get benefits from B-BBEE compliance, but don’t think you are going to run the show’. This is even more so for black women striving to advance in their careers.

The AU Commissioner Smail Chergui was accused of abusing his power by preventing female candidates from progressing into senior positions. Officials from an AU HR department describe this situation as ‘poisonous’ and say in an internal memo that Chergui changed shortlists for job positions to suit a sexist agenda. The complaints made by the women were addressed to AU Chairperson Moussa Faki. Faki’s response hit the nail on the head: ‘… during my appointment, we’ve appointed more women than men into important positions and this was not because I was doing women a favour but because of their natural abilities and the important roles they perform in society. It was natural to appoint them. I’m committed to getting rid of gender discrimination and sanctions will be imposed on anybody or person we find discriminating against women.’

Faki thus identifies a major concern in the fight for women’s equality. Some women are made to feel that they are being done a ‘favour’ rather than having earned a position or right. It is thus critical for women to know and feel that they truly are wanted and needed in whatever position they hold. The same is true of people of colour and other marginalised groups.

Similar to the race discrimination problem in South African companies, will it be the case of, ‘Only when we are ready to let you in,’ for African women in politics, ‘And even then, you will only be as important as we let you be’? The AU conducted an investigation and made the report public late last year. Eighty-eight individuals came forward with information and to share their views on the various cases of concern. The following are some of the report’s key findings:

* Sexual harassment exists in the Commission. Interviewed AU staff almost unanimously confirmed this. Sexual harassment is largely perpetrated by supervisors over female employees. ‘According to interviewees, the young women are exploited for sex in exchange for jobs.’

* Individuals most vulnerable are female short-term staff, youth volunteers and interns.

* Cases go unreported because it would cause further harm to the victim.

* The absence of an official AU Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Policy compounds the problem. The AU report admits that without a dedicated, effective redress and protection mechanism for victims or whistle-blowers, women are left vulnerable in the AU.

* Both male and female superiors were reported to harass and bully subordinates.

The AU has proposed a number of means to remedy these problems, as detailed in their report. What is particularly noteworthy is that, despite serious accusations against Commissioner Chergui, he remains exactly where he was in the AU when the news broke almost a year ago. And, the investigation report does not mention him at all. Were all 37 women who signed the memo wrong about him?

More recent news in relation to Chergui has focussed on a peace deal within the Central African Republic this month, and peace talks with the DRC last month. Chergui has been critical to these developments, and perhaps his position and respect on the continent are keeping him where he is. What Chergui did or did not do seems to have been hushed up, and that certainly seems suspicious.

Is sexism a ‘necessary evil’ in Africa… for now?

Are men like Chergui ‘needed’ in political office, and thus tolerated despite sexism? The writer could find no official evidence or investigation by the AU about the claims against Chergui specifically. He is still an influential leader, and perhaps he needs to be male. Otherwise, will other (mostly male) African leaders take him seriously?

Achieving peace is certainly a critical goal in war-torn African nations like the DRC where human rights abuses have been a never-ending nightmare for over 20 years. If it takes a group of powerful men to stop the brutality and save the Congolese people, gender equality may have to wait until that is finally achieved.

It is certainly not ok that political offices have to be occupied by men in order to get the job done. However, we do not operate in a vacuum and we know sexism is still rife. To achieve peace deals and conduct serious negotiations with African leaders, does one still need to be male? Change is slow, especially where power is concentrated.

While racist and sexist people in power wait until they feel like sharing, we must continue to support those who are doing good work and striving for senior positions in which they can make a difference. We must also remember to support those victims of discrimination and point out that racism and sexism are not just ‘offensive’. They cause people immense personal pain and feelings of not being good enough. They lead to isolation and frustration. This is all completely avoidable if we only treat one another with respect as equal humans with equal rights.

It is hard to get everyone on board. We know that some people in power are only paying lip service to human rights and equality. Their real views and decisions have not changed.

Devan Moonsamy is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, available from the ICHAF Training Institute.

The book tackles contemporary issues in the South African workplace, including a variety of diversity-related challenges and how these can be addressed. It is an excellent guide for managers to harnessing diversity for success.

ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

Tel: 011 262 2461 | Email: devan@ichaftraining.co.za | Website: ichaftraining.co.za | devan-moonsamy.com

How to Achieve Equitable Diversity in Your Workplace

By Devan Moonsamy

Diversity is everywhere. Nations across the globe, big and small cities and towns are all either highly cosmopolitan or fast getting that way. In China, for example, a country that has been somewhat closed to the outside world, there are over 50 distinct ethnic groups who all need to be accommodated in employment and society in general.

South Africa has a similar situation in terms of the sheer number of ethnic groups, as well as increasing numbers of people with very mixed heritages. We need to be alive to this and display flexibility in how we approach and accommodate all kinds of staff members and customers. We must remind ourselves that each individual’s needs and norms can differ, and each one is equally valid.

If we aren’t careful and thoughtful in how we approach people of cultures, languages, races, ethnic, sexuality or gender groups different to our own, we will land up with many unhappy people and endless friction. In business, we will be less productive, and employees will be disengaged at work. It is too much of a risk to ignore the realities of diversity in terms of employee and customer satisfaction, profitability, business risk, and company reputation.

Nobody wants a PR nightmare, but it happens all the time, and to the big players one would expect to be the more progressive among us. Some of the biggest PR disasters last year include Google’s gender pay gap, sexism in the African Union, and H&M’s racially offensive advertising. Diversity is a reality, but it will not be a blessing, and we will not reach an equitable situation whereby people of all demographic groups are afforded equal rights and treatment unless we put in the effort.

Equitable diversity is not a myth or an unachievable goal. It may be difficult to get everyone on board at first, but a strong diversity strategy tailored to your company or department is a powerful tool. To get anywhere worth going, one must first have a plan, a roadmap or a set of guidelines to follow which speak to the conditions of your industry and your office politics as well.

If you are in the education sector, you need to ensure that people of all demographic groups benefit from the learning experience and that your staff know how to help students of different abilities. In many instances, we still see too many white male managers and too many black employees in low-paying entry-level positions.

Women are still locked out of senior management and not taken seriously in some organisations. People with disabilities are also too rarely seen in the work environment compared to the number of people with disabilities who can work.

The way to change this is through a BEE recruiting system and training up people of colour (this term is used to refer to black people as well as coloured and Asian people who have been all been historically disadvantaged) and other minority or marginalised groups to fill management and decision-making roles where they, in turn, can mentor other people of colour, and further drive equitable recruitment processes.

Once a company attracts more diverse employees into positions at all levels, we have to make sure they want to stay. We cannot lose good employees who represent a variety of demographic groups due to maltreatment from fellow staff members or a lack of opportunities. This is simply unacceptable, and we must thus work actively to protect their interests.

Some of the most successful companies in the area of diversity have so much to teach us. In my recent book, Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, we analyse the methods used by various companies to achieve equitable diversity. I include an adapted extract here on a highly successful method that can be implemented in any company.

Task forces and project teams have been found to be the most effective means of managing diversity and maximising its value, especially when the teams are self-managed as much as possible. Task forces or project teams are created to address obstacles related to diversity and to increase equitable representation in the company. Some focus areas for a task force can be ‘recruitment and mentoring initiatives for professionals and middle managers, working specifically toward measurable goals for minorities’ (Dobbin & Kalev, 2016).

Corporate diversity task forces help promote social accountability, and they can go much further than recruitment. They can also monitor the progress of women, black and other groups that can be side-lined to ensure they are trained, well treated and thus retained. Mentorship programmes also work well when a mentor is assigned someone to assist rather than allowing them to choose their own mentees. This ensures that those who need mentoring most get it.

As an example of what task forces can do, Deloitte created a task force a few years ago which found that driving for transparency in decision-making was a key way to get positive results for diversity goals. IBM also launched hugely successful task forces in the mid-1990s, each focused on a different group including a specific task force dedicated to help promote lesbian and gay people in the workplace. ‘The goal of the initiative was to uncover and understand differences among the groups and find ways to appeal to a broader set of employees and customers,’ and thus, ‘the IBM of today looks very different from the IBM of 1995’ (Thomas, 2004). Diversity task-forces became a pillar of the company’s HR strategy. The number of IBM female executives worldwide increased by 370%; ethnic minorities by 233%; LGBT executives rose by 733%; and those with disabilities more than tripled.

We can thus see the incredible value that dedicated task teams can achieve. It is these types of diversity initiatives which have kept progressive companies such as IBM and Deloitte going strong through the decades.

Devan Moonsamy is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, available from the ICHAF Training Institute.

The book tackles contemporary issues in the South African workplace, including a variety of diversity-related challenges and how these can be addressed. It is an excellent guide for managers to harnessing diversity for success.

ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

Tel: 011 262 2461 | Email: devan@ichaftraining.co.za | Website: ichaftraining.co.za

Who is Devan Moonsamy?

Devan Moonsamy is a seasoned trainer, entrepreneur, and charity worker. Upon leaving high school, Devan started a training initiative to help school teachers struggling with heavy workloads and another to help youths build self-confidence.

From these early years, Devan built ICHAF, a training and development business, which focusses keenly on the needs of South African employers and employees, which are not only unique to the nation, but especially to the needs of the individual. Devan understands the diverse composition of today’s South African workforce, and how to cater to the variety of needs. In fact, Devan has made it his mission to understand diversity in the South African workplace, to master diversity management, and to teach the skills and knowledge of diversity management to as many corporates as possible.

Over more than 15 years, Devan and trainers from his company have together developed and trained thousands of staff members from large companies such as Norton Rose Fullbright, Peermont Global, Barloworld, Avis Budget Group and many others. The company offers training in fields such as NQF1 to NQF5 Learnerships, business administration, business practices, leadership, IT, ethics, as well as conflict management and diversity management, the latter two being among Devan’s specialities. In addition to training across South Africa, Devan has worked in other African nations and in Asia.

Devan is outspoken about diversity in South Africa because he has been witness to the inequality and discrimination which plagues its people. He believes that every South African should be involved in bridging these divides. He thus promotes healthy diversity and inclusion practices in the corporate environment through his Seta-accredited TVET institution.

Devan found his niche in training and development through an affinity for public speaking, motivational speaking, and relationship management. A strong desire to see others grow and succeed in their careers and in their personal development has driven him to invest his time and energies in the training sector.

Through the success of his training programmes, Devan has created a vibrant network of fellow trainers, education experts, SETA officials, and a wide variety of other professionals who assist him in designing and delivering ever more quality and in-depth training interventions and programmes. Devan works towards creating a productive corporate learning and development space for all clients.

What gets Devan going every day is his drive to see South Africans diversity relations improve. Racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of discrimination still plague our relationships and society. Devan understands that the only way to really overcome these problems is to open up dialogue, appeal to people’s reason, and bring diverse groups together so that they can learn to get along. With the right guidance, which Devan strives to offer, we will be able to be a more cohesive nation, one to be proud of.

As businesses and their employees, from executives to new recruits, have a significant impact on the rest of society, achieving healthy diversity relations free of discrimination in the workplace will have a systemic positive effect on the rest of South Africa. Currently, diversity relations in the workplace are often mediocre at best or sometimes very tense, and this needs to change urgently. To achieve better relationships in spite of interpersonal differences, more diversity and inclusion training sessions are required as well as workshops to encourage people to take up leadership positions and perform well therein. Devan thus provides these training sessions and workshops.

Devan was born in KwaZulu-Natal and later moved to Johannesburg with his family. He completed high school in Benoni. Devan has two older sisters, Evon Naicker and Evellin Naidoo, both of whom work closely with him at the ICHAF Training Institute in facilitation and administration. Devan, through the ICHAF Training Institute and devan-moonsamy.com, employs facilitators, assessors’ moderators and administration staff, all of whom he considers to be extensions of his family. Devan enjoys travelling and recently visited Hong Kong, Nepal, Thailand and Brazil. Other favourite destinations are Namibia for its wonderful wildlife and landscapes, India for its temples and culture, and Nepal for relaxation and meditation spaces. Devan is family-oriented and values life-long learning. He is thus currently completing a degree in psychology. He also has studied toward an LLB at UNISA and has other diplomas and qualifications in occupationally directed education, training and development practices, generic management, strategic management, and business administration.

Critical Analysis of Racial Segregation at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke

Critical Analysis of Racial Segregation at Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke

Devan Moonsamy

The first term of school this year has not gotten off to the best start for some children and their parents. At Laerskool Schweizer-Reneke in North West Province, a teacher has been suspended over racial segregation of children in a class. A photo was sent to parents by WhatsApp by the teacher which clearly shows a large group of white children seated together, and a few black children separated from the group at another desk. That’s a red flag, and a political protest was held outside the school.

But is this what people so quickly assume it to be? A number of explanations have surfaced. Firstly, this is simply the work of a racist teacher showing preference to the white children. Schweizer-Reneke is a town said to have deep racial divisions, and some say the teacher was even doing the right thing because of these tensions and because integration takes time.

Secondly, that the black children were new at the school and could not speak Afrikaans or English. Why this was in fact necessary was not made clear by the school. One reason could be that the children required a different teaching intervention which the teacher planned to give them in a small group setting. Separating learners according to needs in this way is a common practice and seems to make sense.

However, it is strange that the children who are said to need special attention are placed at the back of the class in the corner. Was it necessary to make them feel even more excluded in this way? It just doesn’t add up. MEC Sello Lehari who went in to address the situation has rejected this excuse and is investigating further.

Thirdly, it has been said that the children were allowed to sit where they wanted, and so the seating arrangements were their choice. This last reason is somewhat plausible because we do all tend towards ‘birds of a feather’ habits, and perhaps more so for young children in such a setting. But it would still seem unlikely that the children end up in the particular arrangement shown in the picture on their own. Does it not seem too well organised for these small children aged between four and six?

On social media, people were angered, and said it is unacceptable, while others say it is a ‘fake racial event’. Another teacher is to take the suspended teacher’s place, but some parents have already removed their children from the school.

Making an analysis this soon is difficult. More information is needed. However, I propose that it is the duty of the teacher in question and the school to make a formal apology at the very least for an insensitive way of arranging the children in the class. The teacher ought not to have placed the black children away from the others and at the back, especially if they needed more attention due to a language barrier.

Whether intentionally racist or not, it is highly offensive, and it is what we are supposed to be working very hard to prevent. Education has long been a site of racial contention, and we need to tread carefully. People of colour already feel marginalised in many settings. There is no need to throw that in their faces, and in such a personal way.

People are also naturally very protective of their own and other people’s children, and rightly so. It is not unfair to take to social media seeking public attention and comment on this photo. We need to debate this and ensure that children across South Africa are not subject to segregation or favouritism for any reason.

Let this be a warning to all teachers, educators, schools, colleagues, universities, trainers, etc. – we must be sensitised on these issues of racism in education.

Devan Moonsamy is the author of Racism, Classism, Sexism, And The Other ISMs That Divide Us, available from the ICHAF Training Institute.

The book tackles contemporary issues in the South African workplace, including a variety of diversity-related challenges and how these can be overcome. It is an excellent guide for managers to harnessing diversity for success.

ICHAF offers SETA-approved training in business skills, computer use, and soft skills. Devan specialises in conflict and diversity management, and regularly conducts seminars on these issues for corporates. To book a seminar with Devan or for other training courses, please use the contact details below.

Tel: 011 262 2461 | Email: devan@ichaftraining.co.za | Website: ichaftraining.co.za