Mediation & Conflict Resolution At Work
October 10 2008 - A recent report finds that UK businesses are being badly affected by poorly
managed conflicts in the workplace. According to Fight, Flight or Face It, a report jointly authored by
business psychology firm OPP and the CIPD, the average British employee is
spending more than two hours a week dealing with conflict. This adds up to the loss of more than 370
million working days a year, costing UK employers more than £24 billion.
The studies cited in the report show stress and heavy workloads as major causes of conflict
(34% and 33%) by employees. But around a half (49%) point to personality clashes and warring egos
as the number one cause.
According to Robert McHenry, CEO of OPP: "Workplace
conflict is nothing new. But in the context of
the current economic downturn, businesses could
see steep rises in conflict as workloads increase,
budgets shrink and stress levels rise. The fact
that there are too few managers in British
business with the insight to handle it
effectively could cost us dearly.
"When dealt with in the right way, conflict can
actually lead to positive outcomes such as more
effective teamwork and greater innovation.
Training is vital because it allows managers
to understand and deal with the underlying
A timely new book may help. On the basis of their extensive experience in the field of workplace mediation, consultants Nora Doherty and
Marcelas Guyler provide a number of useful models as well as theories and case studies in the essential Guide to Workplace Mediation & Conflict Resolution: Rebuilding Working Relationships.
Offering a practical and wide-ranging treatment of mediation, the book is aimed primarily
at 'those people in organizations who are in the front line and who have daily to anticipate, pre-empt or defuse
conflicts in the support of performance or the preservation of productive working relationships.' It should also be useful to
experienced and trainee mediators.
Published by Kogan Page, the book takes a reader-friendly approach: its 196 pages are layed out clearly
with a set of 'essentials' highlighted at the end of each chapter, an extensive bibliography, and a concise index. It is divided into three main sections:
- Workplace Mediation. This section forms about half of the book. The main body of the text begins with Nora Doherty's working definition of
'... a structured process whereby an impartial mediator facilitates communication between those in dispute in order for
them to understand each other better and for them to come up with mutually acceptable solutions that will improve the
working relationship in the future.'
Next in this section is a list of the basic skills of a mediator, an overview of the origins of
mediation and an example case of bullying. This is followed by a discussion on 'just how does mediation work?' This outlines
Nora Doherty's six-step model of mediation which is being widely adopted in the field.
The other chapters in this section examine critical issues such as the nature of conflict, dispute resolution
methods, 'what is special about mediation', how mediation can be used within organizations, workplace mediation for teams,
team mediation and dynamics, and the way to introduce mediation into the workplace.
- Mediation in action: case studies of real life workplace mediations. This section gives real-life examples at three
levels: mediation between two employees (including alleged bullying, sexual harassment, and racism); mediation with
teams; and mediation for boardroom conflicts.
- The philosophy and processes of mediation: in support of conflict managers and organizational
development. As the title suggests this is a more theoretical and philosophical section than most of the book and
chapter 12, in particular, on 'Why do conflicts arise?' may be the most difficult for 'hands-on' practitioners to digest. The remaining
chapters are more in tune with the other sections of the book and address how and why should managers respond to conflict,
the relationship between mediation and empowerment, and a concluding discussion entitled 'beyond mediation'.
In summary,this is an immensely useful and practical book, of value to anyone interested in conflict at work.