Tag Archives: Ending conflict without the court



Mediation ends Conflicts

Mediation ends Conflicts


December 9, 2015


Are you experiencing conflicts in the workplace? Is it difficult to communicate with a co-worker, a supervisor or manager? When you get ready for work, do you get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach?   You are not alone. Conflict is inevitable and while it occurs in all aspects of life, workplace disputes often have a negative effect on productivity and work relationships.

Conflicts develop when our individual needs, wants, methods, goals, and values are different. A conflict is different from a disagreement because it is almost always accompanied by feelings of anger, frustration, and anxiety. Relationships fail or break down when the parties involved ignore or avoid the conflict, but in work situations, people normally have to continue to work together. Many employers recognize that managing conflict effectively is an essential skill for maintaining a cohesive and productive work environment.

As an employee there are some things you can do to deal with conflict more effectively. Conflict can be managed by learning and applying good communication skills and problem solving skills in your day-to-day interactions. In some conflicts, we become emotionally charged and our focus is on blame, fault, and responsibility (our positions). As we become entrenched in our positions, we unwittingly, “feed” the conflict by accusing, blaming or finding fault.

If we focus on individual needs and desires (our interests) and work with each other rather than against each other, we have a better chance for resolving the conflict. While uncovering the interests of each person in the conflict helps to pinpoint what triggered the conflict, problem solving techniques help us solve each issue the parties discussed. Most of us use problem-solving techniques at work every day. Unfortunately, we don’t realize that those same skills can be used to resolve conflicts.

If your attempts to solve the conflict are unsuccessful, then as an employee, you may use the traditional, formal systems available to you to settle a dispute such as the grievance process or Equal Employment Opportunity process. In recent years, mediation has increased in popularity because it is an informal problem solving process that saves time and is cost effective. The mediation process is designed to assist individuals in conflict with creating a mutual solution to their dispute.

Mediation is also helpful in improving communications and repairing relationships. Mediation differs from court processes because it is not designed to determine who is right or wrong. In mediation, the parties create their own agreement while the mediator acts as a facilitator. Unlike court proceedings where a judge decides the outcome, nothing is decided in mediation unless both parties agree to the terms.

If you elect to use a more formal process such as a grievance or other type of complaint process, someone else will decide the outcome for you. However, in the mediation process, you and the other person maintain control over the outcome. Which would you rather choose?

Elly Cleaver is MSAC Board Member and a retired Federal Government Alternative Dispute Resolution Specialist.







In recent weeks, we have seen two glaring examples of disaster stemming from the fact that people were unable to communicate essential needs to each other.  The first, about which we’ve already heard way too much, was the Sandy Hook shooting, in which a young man, suffering from a high end disorder on the autism spectrum, built up so much anger against his mother, teachers, and normal children that he acted out his hatred with weapons.  The second was the despicable charade put on by members of a Congress who never tried, or learned how, to talk across the aisle, as was common in years past.

We have to ask what has happened to our society that has resulted in these desperate moments of murder and fiscal irresponsibility?  One sad fact may be that social media, while it allows us to tweet and text, does not encourage face to face conversation, where we can observe body language: a grimace, a shy grin, or eyes cast down in shame. Another culprit may well be the media. They have encouraged us to speak hatefully on talk radio and exaggerated the chasms between political parties and candidates in a hard-fought presidential election.  Last but not least, we have become so tight-lipped as a people that we have forgotten how to laugh at ourselves – the best way to defuse hurt.

Because of his autism, the Sandy Hook shooter had built-in communication difficulties. But the parents of a normal young man involved in the Columbine shootings, said they had no idea what was going on with their son.  Admittedly it is sometimes difficult to get teenagers to talk. They tend to be secretive, especially if they think parents are spying on them or enforcing rules too stringently. But it is important for parents not to give up, to keep expressing affection even when rebuffed, and to keep the communication channels open by making observations and asking questions in a conversational way – even with one-word answers.

I suspect that Tea Party attitudes have a lot to do with the difficulties in the 112th session of Congress. It was almost impossible to negotiate with people who came into office having signed a pledge not to raise taxes. Right off the bat they were stuck on a position and refused to acknowledge other possibilities.  Fortunately, the House is very much a revolving door, which means that new people are coming in every two years.  But someone with a ramrod attitude is not likely to reach across the aisle. Small group bipartisan mixers might be a solution, if older hands are willing to swallow hard and take the initiative.

One reason that mediation is so much more satisfying than relying on legal action is that it offers an opportunity to sit down and talk to the other party.  Mediators are trained to deal with hostile attitudes or bring out needs that might otherwise go unexpressed.  With or without a mediator, families should organize their own family meetings on a regular basis to deal with unmet concerns. Mediation is also an option for local governments struggling with irreconcilable views.

For more information, contact MSAC at 334-7312 or mediateadams@yahoo.com. You can also visit MSAC website. Janet Powers is MSAC Presiding Officer and Professor Emerita at Gettysburg College.