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Conflict Resolution

Mediation Prevents Budget Drains

Elizabeth A Moreno asked:

n than not, a dispute can be traced back to some relatively minor misunderstandings, miscommunications, mistaken perceptions, and frustrated expectations that have nothing to do with legal concerns. Left unresolved, these seemingly ordinary events can escalate, positions can solidify and the problem will become a legal matter.

How many mediations uncover failures in the communications involved in the situation rather than a violation of law?

More often than not, a dispute can be traced back to some relatively minor misunderstandings, miscommunications, mistaken perceptions, and frustrated expectations that have nothing to do with legal concerns. Left unresolved, these seemingly ordinary events can escalate, positions can solidify and the problem will become a legal matter.

Mediation of all types of workplace disputes can happen at any stage in the life cycle of the conflict. Intervention via informal mediation by an impartial third party works and can easily be measured as a cost effective tool.

Any a professional mediator and human resources professional, specializing in employee relations, will tell you that human interactions set the nature of the work environment. A positive work environment is critical to productivity, business reputation, customer service excellence and, indeed, the bottom-line operating costs of any organization.

Of course, researchers have reached this conclusion as well. Therefore, business owners, managers at all levels of the organization, human resources leaders and their legal counsel all have reason to want to mitigate an organization’s exposure to conflict and disputes impacting a work group’s ability to function well.

This can be a frustrating proposition because employees and managers…..

§ bring their entire lives (containing a huge variety of motivations and focal points) with them to work;

§ are also being affected by (and react to) what they see, hear, feel, expect, and experience at work every day;

§ are human beings who are hard-wired for self-interest and instinctive fight-or-flight responses when confronted with adversity.

In these days of tight budgets, cutbacks, and competition for available resources, what organization can forego the opportunity to bolster productivity and customer service while receiving the benefits of a positive return on investment (ROI) on the cost of implementing mediation of conflict that drains resources in every work environment?

Steps to add value, save money and defuse conflict in your working group:

1. If you haven’t already done so, gain a better appreciation of the need to manage conflict by using one of the free online tools to calculate the costs of workplace conflict now available to estimate many of the real cost impacts to your organization.

2. Provide the employee relations staff with regular mediation training, which includes advance mediation skills. These courses are relatively inexpensive if you have a few employees taking the advanced training at an educational institution. Use these internal resources to identify and resolved conflict in its early stages.

3. Train key managers in basic mediation skills. Then obtain the capability to hire private mediators on an as-needed basis. This can be viewed as similar to other types of outside providers, such as investigators, employee assistance programs, and other specialized consultants.

4. If your budget allows it, provide both an internal and external resource for mediating workplace conflicts.

5. Track expenses for providing mediation (dedicated employee relations staff costs and/or cost of private mediators) and develop a method to compare these mediation costs over time with the costs incurred on resolving formal complaints and litigation via traditional processes. The return on investment (ROI) will become a documented success story.

6. When your organization is ready, inject mediation skill training for managers as a part of any managerial effectiveness training program in order to maximize communication skills in the organization.

7. When you are feeling like increasing your organization’s ability to maintain a high quality work environment, add mediation skills training for all employees.

The work environment suffers and costs escalate when you wait longer to use mediation as a regular tool to resolve workplace conflict. Mediation adds value and saves money in these times of budget crisis.

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