Conflict is unavoidable. And conflict occurs in the workplace – where most people spend the majority of their waking hours. Workplace disputes can be disputes between owners, between employer and employee, and between employees.
Workplace conflict or even in-fighting may be extremely disruptive to a harmonious workplace, and lead to dysfunction. If conflict is not addressed, or handled poorly, it could lead to deteriorated relationships, poor work performance, lowered morale, and even litigation. All of these negative affects cost your business money, time and productivity.
But if conflict is handled well, the outcome may be positive discussions and preserved relationships. Dispute Resolution is a relatively low-cost method to resolve such conflicts. This is to describe two types of Dispute Resolution that can preserve your work relationships.
Facilitation is appropriate to address problems before they occur, or before they become serious. Facilitation may be the perfect tool when owners of a business have disagreements about a future path for the business, or when the workforce seems to be at odds.
The focus in facilitation may be building a collaborative relationship, assisting employees with negotiating skills and conflict management strategies. Facilitation may lead to overcoming barriers to your business’ growth, identifying strengths, discussing strategies, making key decisions, setting priorities, and establishing action plans. Having a facilitator can help clarify your goals, engage all the stakeholders, keep everyone on track and focused, mediate emotions, provide documentation and provide follow-up after the session.
Mediation is frequently used as an alternative to arbitration or litigation, and may occur whether or not there has been a formal complaint made.
In a mediation, the parties in conflict ask the mediator to try to help them resolve their conflict. The mediator is not a judge, and is not there to make decisions. The mediator is a neutral – not deciding who is wrong and who is right, or what is fair. On the contrary, the mediator moderates and guides the process in an attempt to bring the parties together by defining issues and eliminating obstacles to communication. A mediator may discuss each party’s perceived strengths or weaknesses to help reach resolution, and may well discuss potential outcomes if the parties do not resolve the conflict, but ultimately the power remains with the parties to decide whether the conflict will be resolved.
It is important to note that a mediation is confidential, with the mediator reporting only the final decisions of the parties, or that the parties were unable to reach a consensus. And this is a great benefit to employees and employers who are successful in resolving their dispute – confidentiality.
By contrast, litigation is public. And it has become easier for anyone so desiring to read the allegations of a public dispute. For employers that means customers/clients, potential employees, and investors may be swayed by such allegations. Competitors may become aware of the inner workings of your business, too. For employees, it means that future employers may see the allegations made by the employer in the dispute.
The Bowman Law Office handles Employment Consultation and Litigation. For over two decades Catherine Bowman has represented both Employers and Employees. She is also a mediator. Catherine has a degree in psychology and sociology. This education and experience give her a unique perspective in resolving workplace conflicts.