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Walworth:  Conflict…it isn’t wine…it doesn’t get better with age

Often times when there is conflict in the workplace, the easiest thing to do is to ignore or delay and hope that it will go away with time.  In fact this is one of the six approaches that Goldman, Cropanzano, Stein and Benson describe, “avoidance or ignoring method, where the manager does nothing” (2008 p. 294).  In our Human Resource department one of our guiding principles is that conflict isn’t wine, it doesn’t get better with age, it is more like cheese, it just gets more stinky.  So our approach with employee relations is to be proactive early on in the process.  Our approach would be to take an advising or facilitating role.  In this role, “the manager takes the two parties aside and encourages them to engage in productive discussion” (2008, p. 294).  We do this by gathering the conflicting parties and come to a neutral place to discuss the issue.  Our goal is to establish the focus and the frame of the process as non confrontational as possible.  Deepak Malhotra describe this as “treating the interactions as problem solving exercises rather than battles to be won” (2015, p 71).  This is also done by setting the tone of the interactions to be respectful, slide 6 of the lecture talks about relationship goals, which are “what we hope we will be at the outcome of the among the involved parties and even important outside parties “(Dailey, 2016).  We find that when there are issues and we address them early and directly with both parties, we can find a more respectful solution and there are often fewer casualties of the dispute as neither party has had time to try to win support on the work floor.

Another goal of conflict resolution for us is that the relationships with the employees and their ability to build trust is paramount to long term success with the mediation.  Charkoudian, De Ritis, Buck and Wilson describe this as the “socio-emotional mediators, they focus on terms such as humanistic, transformative, and relational and are more focused on the people more than on the problem at hand” (2009, p 296).  An example of this would be where we follow up after the mediation with extensive ongoing coaching to help develop the employees to mitigate the need for mediation in the future to help with their problem solving or to help them see the other parties perspective.  “Mediators act as facilitators and coaches, educating and empowering the parties to make their own decisions with respect to the conflict” (Alexander, 2008 p103). 

These have been the primary guiding principles by our organization and our human resource department when dealing with employee relations and conflict.  Always be respectful of everyone, understanding that we all have differing perspectives of the same situation and to not delay in dealing with the conflict, it only gets more stinky if you wait.

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Alexander, N. 2008. The Mediation Metamodel: Understanding Practice. Conflict Resolution Quarterly.  26 (1). P 97-123

Charkoudian, L., De Ritis, C., Buck, R., Wilson, D.  2009. Mediation by any other name would smell as sweet – or would it? The Struggle to define Mediation and its various approaches.  Conflict Resolution Quarterly. 26 (3).

Dailey, W. 2016. COM665 Lecture: Managing Conflict

Malhotra, D. 2015. Control the negotiation before it begins.  Harvard Business Review. 92 (12).  66-72