MEDIATE: WORKPLACE CONFLICTS
Resolving organizational conflicts, restoring work relationships, and advancing team effectiveness
Conflict arises within all organizations and among all people from time to time. I think this is important to state openly, because even as it may seem obvious, we often take conflict very personally. It can profoundly impact upon our thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and perspectives. And sometimes, we can so pressure ourselves to handle conflict on our own that seeking the assistance of a third party can itself be a difficult decision.
Understanding conflict, and working more skillfully with it, has been the focus of my entire career. What I have observed is that the ways in which people normally deal with conflict also tend to keep them trapped within it. One party’s actions lead to another party’s reactions, and quickly the situation can degenerate into a mutually reinforcing downward spiral, even with the best of intentions. Often, an impasse results, in which one or both parties attempt to convince the other to give in, give up, or acknowledge being wrong, all within an escalating pattern of asserting their views, defending their positions, and refusing to listen or respond. In the traditional approach, a third party would then be brought in and expected to decide what should be done on their behalf.
Mediation differs from the traditional approach in that the parties voluntarily work together to make decisions and mutually resolve their own conflict. At its core, mediation may be seen as a facilitated negotiation. It is a social process by which a neutral assists the parties to communicate directly, manage emotions and agendas, focus on core issues and needs, improve their understanding of the situation, and generate options for an agreement that serves them better than their alternatives. Within a workplace, it can also help parties develop options to structure their ongoing relationship or its termination, if necessary.
Countless disputes have been resolved through mediation. And while people may have a general understanding of the process, there are actually many different types of mediation as well as mediator styles. I believe one of mediation’s great strengths lies in its flexibility and adaptability to particular circumstances.
As impartial ombudsperson, I am experienced in using a full range of proven, informal approaches to create the conditions necessary for parties to resolve their own differences. My style is interactive, facilitative and transformative with its roots in the understanding-based approach to mediation. As such, I rely on the power of understanding rather than the power of coercion or persuasion. I consider primary responsibility for whether and how a dispute is resolved to be with the parties. I trust human nature is inherently good. And I believe the parties are best served by working and making decisions together, step-by-step, with the support of the mediator, in an efficient and constructive use of their time.
Conflict can be an invitation to notice our habitual responses to it, and move beyond them. That is the challenge, the hope, and the opportunity for all of us as participants in mediation.
"No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves."
Native American Ojibwa Proverb