OL7100-4 Conflict Resolution and Mediation
Workplace conflict is considered one of the greatest causes of stress and employee marginalization in the workplace. Taking simple steps to ensure that conflicts find swift resolution can be the key to preventing escalation of a majority of workplace related issues. Health complaints, employee stress, reduction in productivity, bullying claims, compensation, and a tainted image are all preventable through a quick resolution to emerging conflicts between workmates, managers, and their employees (Marinova 2008).
This paper describes a work related conflict experience that involves the use of a mediator in resolving such a conflict. It goes further to expound on how the mediator controls the conflict resolution process, outlines the effects of the mediator siding with one of the parties and comparing the differences between western and traditional cultural expectations and mediation processes.
Impact of conflict in the work environment
The use of mediation in resolving conflict in many areas is increasingly growing.
It is a critical process in the alternative dispute resolution platform, which involves the use of a third party in bringing two sides in a dispute together with a sole purpose of ensuring that they get into a mutually satisfactory agreement. The workplace is no stranger to conflict. Managers, business owners, and policy makers are recognizing the role of mediation especially in the workplace, which draws its staff from all walks of life, people with different cultures, and different perspectives to life (Holley et al.
2008). Due to the value attached to the human resource, mediation becomes a critical component of productivity and organizational success.
As organizations work at achieving their goals, there are bound to be challenges that more often have to be overcome as a team. Challenges leave room for different opinions that in many circumstances lead to conflict between colleagues, teams, organizations, and other interested parties. Although conflict is always attributed to negativity, the effects of such altercations may take either a positive or a negative connotation depending on its resolution. Conflict can thus be associated with violence, decreased productivity, and the resignation of staff, on the negative side, and be linked to better communication, creativity, and respect when positively handled.
Mediation is a process where a third party, usually an impartial person, assists persons in a conflict to come to an agreement. The mediator comes into play not as one in the dispute or as a judge to decide who is in the wrong and the other on the right, but to guide the process to reconciliation between the warring factions. He is thus in charge of the process of trying to resolve the conflict and not to influence the outcome. In a work environment, mediators may be external mediation providers or fellow employers who have been accredited to offer such services other than their day jobs.
Mediation differentiates itself from other conflict resolution approaches, such as the use of tribunals and grievance procedures through its ability to be owned by the conflicting parties, its moral binds, confidentiality, flexibility, and how less formal it is compared to the rest. Mediation thus provides a fast, informal resolution to conflict in the workplace. It does this by allowing the conflicting parties to find answers to their problems in a confidential manner.
Leadership conflicts are a common form of workplace conflict occurring in many organizations. Differences in personalities between managers and their subordinates have the potential of being the source of a number of interpersonal conflicts. Depending on the caliber of manager one has, he or she may feel bullied by an authoritarian manager or be discontent and perceive inadequate guidance from a hands-off manager. Authoritarian managers may in most occasions set extremely ambitious goals for their subordinates, who set them up for automatic failure and in turn leading to conflict. On the other hand, a hands-off manager does not provide the necessary guidance required of him to his subordinates creating an avenue for mistakes and failure.
In order to handle these personality mismatches in an effective manner, a mediator is required to first get an understanding between the manager and his subordinate in order for both of them to understand each other’s perspective of what transpired, and what prompted them to such acts. A good mediator needs not treat such disagreements as disciplinary situations where managers are always right and their employees always on the wrong. A good mediator recognizes that although there are differences in position, all are human, and are prone to error, hence the need to listen to all parties before coming to a solution.
Differences between the western and traditional mediation processes
Mediation is as old as conflict itself. Although the process of mediation may have changed and refined over time, mediation has been in existence since time immemorial. Traditional mediation involved family and neighborhood forms of mediation. Such forms are often facilitated by the elderly in the community. Due to the idea of togetherness and community, traditional mediation indicates a commitment to upholding the idea of togetherness characteristic of traditional way of life.
In the traditional mediation process, conflict is often seen in the context of its social implication. It is not just an isolated act where all information relevant to the problem is taken care of during the process. In addition to this, the mediation process not only considers the consequences of such actions on the individual but on the family and the community at large. The objectives of these forms of mediation are thus to uphold humanistic values and create compromises that work to improve future relationships of the parties affected.
Such resolutions are usually publicly mediated and guided by the elders. The disputants, their families, and the communities are involved in different capacities in the resolution of the process. All the members present in the resolution have a right to give their opinion for the effective resolution of the dispute.
The western style of mediation involves individual mediators selected in a professional capacity to assist conflicting parties work through their altercation. Mediators do not necessarily have to be acquainted with the parties and are often authoritative over the parties. Although some of these mediators may be known to the parties, they are neutral to the process and are concerned with keeping the social relations of the two alive in the long run.
Although the western and traditional mediation processes seem to differ due to the differences in possible professional capacities, both forms of mediation are critical components to peaceful co-existence and maintenance of social bonds within the society.
How the mediator handles the mediation process
A mediator first meets the concerned parties separately to allow them to each give their story and get what each individual wants out of the process in the long run. A joint meeting is then conducted where each of them give their side of the story within a given uninterrupted time. The mediator listens to each of them and draws up main points in line with areas of agreement and disagreement which inform on the agenda for the rest of the mediation process. The mediator then assists the parties explore issues that warranted the conflict, assisting them to look into the future for constructive solutions, shifting their focus from the past. As the process grows on, he assists the parties build and writes an agreement that encourages joint problem solving through workable solutions.
Cautions to remember when considering being a third party helper
Mediation is a noble cause to addressing disputes between parties. One, therefore, needs to desist from acting as a cheerleader in a heated conflict. As a potential negotiator, one needs to be open to the warring parties, listen to them, and give impartial direction to the process of conflict resolution. Arguing for or against one of the parties only fuels the conflict rather than assisting the members in reaching a resolution.
Mediation involves making resolutions between human subjects. Human beings have a tendency to be erratic and uncontrollable when provoked. In such a conflict resolution process, potential mediators need to be ready for the possibility of a walk-out from one of the parties involved especially where one of the parties is unwilling to participate in the process. Although such scenes may appear, mediation involves a collective agreement between people brought together by the third party usually for the common good. Mediators may also face problems associated with pressure from one of the parties involved. Such individuals may seek to discredit the position of the mediator and convince the mediator to give them exactly what they seek. A potential mediator ought to be level-headed and listen to arguments and counter-arguments from both parties to internalize and assess the needs of each complainant objectively.
A potential mediator needs to note that mediation just like court settlements may take a very short time or a rather long time depending on the personalities of the different parties one works with. It is thus a potentially stressful situation that may bring in fatigue and the urge to end the arguing by taking sides. More importantly, one needs to guide this process, not take sides and be ready to weather the storms to reach an agreement.
Once the mediator enters a dispute, both the mediator and the disputing parties have a responsibility to work together to choose the best mediation strategy for their specific situation. This may involve the identification of the common interests at stake due to the conflict, assist the parties explore the range of outcomes that are beneficial for the parties and describing the strategies available for the parties to reach a conclusion of their conflict.
Conflict resolution and analysis is preceded by the collection of data under the guidance of the mediator. Data collected in this stage of the meditation process is an individuals’ account of events surrounding the conflict, what they think might have caused the conflict and what one feels should have been done better to avoid such an outcome. For effective data collection, the mediator identifies a framework for the collection of data and identifies which data collection methods he needs to use. Some of the data collection methods include the use of direct observation, interviews especially with the parties involved in the conflict and the use of secondary sources such as financial information from books of accounts (Moore 2014).
A mediator may delegate the data collection process in instances where he has a lot of work to handle. He also makes decisions of how the data collection is conducted, identifying the relevant parties and planning. Interviews, for instance, may, therefore, be structured, non-structured, focused, unfocused, done individually or jointly. A good mediator also makes decisions on the questions to be asked in the interviews and has a responsibility to keenly listen and exercise impartiality during the process.
Data collected from the conflicting parties is used primarily to create a model interpretation of the problem. During this stage, a mediator integrates and understands the strategic elements that influence this dispute; dynamics, interests, people, and issues. A mediator begins to interpret the conflict by delineating unrealistic and realistic causes of the behavior and verifying discrepant data. Some of the sound data may include differing moral values and competing interests while unrealistic data may include confusion over meaning, miscommunication of information and stereotypes among others.
Effects of siding with one of the conflicting parties
A good mediator is contextually expected to remain a third party, neutral and impartial in the conflict resolution process (Hayes 2013). In some instances, due to compelling reasons, a mediator may find it difficult to maintain his composure and drift off to one side of the argument, a dangerous situation for any third party helper.
Siding with one of the conflicting parties automatically creates a winner and a loser situation by getting more people on the winning side. This is contrary to the essence of mediation which does not recognize a winner or a loser but merely ascribes to an understanding. This, in turn, forces an escalation in the violence especially coming from the rejected party thereby reinforcing the destructive nature of the conflict.
Siding with one of the conflicting parties complicates the conflict. Conflicts are normally one sided and involve a misunderstanding of facts or statements between two people. Although a misunderstanding exists, each of the warring individual’s often has some truth lying somewhere in his statement. By siding with one of these individuals’, a mediator complicates the situation as he is often fuelled by his own understanding of the issue at hand. He increases the number of people in the conflict and introduces a different perspective in the argument, which is most often counterproductive.
By taking sides, a mediator loses his right to arbitrate between the conflicting individuals. His involvement in the conflict makes it impossible for him to be impartial and neutral to the needs of the two parties. It is unprofessional for such an individual to mediate such a process as he would have lost favor and trust from the parties in conflict. Once such an individual coalesces with one of the parties, he loses his helpful role, weakening the relationship that existed between them.
A mediator must from the onset be certain that the individuals want to be assisted to resolve the conflicting situation they find themselves in. This is important as is creates a buffer for the mediator, and assists him from turning to becoming the enemy in the process. In an instance where the parties are unwilling to be assisted with their conflict, such persons may create a temporary bond with each other primarily to exclude the mediator from the conflict.
As soon as the mediation work is done, a mediator should exit the system. The fact that mediation may be either formal or informal pulls both the conflicting parties and the mediator into a temporal relationship. By staying in after the conflict resolution process is over, the mediator may easily be sucked into the fray forcing him to take sides and subsequently re-igniting the conflict. Exiting the process is in line with mediation goals that require that such individuals be left out to train them on how to better manage their relationship issues (Murray 2011).
Mediation is a universally acceptable form of conflict resolution. As a form of alternative dispute resolution, its benefits, including mutual agreements and maintaining social cohesion, validate this as an effective mode of conflict resolution. Although it has evolved over time to become a formal affair, its tenets still guide the process with social well being and the common good taking centre stage.
Mediation has a big role to play especially in the workplace due to the differences in personality, and cultural attributes between employees and their managers. Whether done in a formal or informal manner, mediation has the potential of bringing together warring parties in an office, creating a more conducive environment to work, and increasing productivity. A good mediator however, needs to maintain neutrality in his work, follow due process and exit it as soon as an agreement between the parties is reached. To ensure objectivity when mediating, a good third party helper ought to avoid pitfalls such as siding with either of the parties’ involved in the conflict since it is bound to cause a conflict of interest and work negatively towards the success of the process.
Hayes A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression based approach. Guilford Press.
Holley W. H., Kenneth M. J., Roger S. W. (2008). The labor relations process. Cengage Learning.
Marinova D. (2008). Neutrality in mediation hearings: Managing the mediation process without bias. Georgetown: Georgetown University.
Moore C.W. (2014). The mediation process: practical strategies for resolving conflict. Wiley & Sons Publishing.
Murray O. R. (2011). The mediation handbook. Bradford Publishing Company.
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