The Association for Conflict Resolution sponsors Conflict Resolution Day this year on October 16, 2014. The primary purpose of the day is to promote awareness of mediation, arbitration, and other forms of conflict resolution in schools, families, businesses, communities, governments, and the legal system.
As an employment attorney and Human Resources practitioner, I am most aware of how important conflict resolution is in the workplace. How many times have small differences of opinion or small slights between co-workers grown into unsolvable problems?
Managers, HR people, and others in corporate roles should think this week about how to reduce conflict in their workplaces. Some conflict is healthy, of course, but only if the conflict is managed in healthy ways. Managing conflict requires first that it be recognized, and second that there be non-inflammatory methods to reduce and resolve the conflict.
Here are some suggestions of actions to take this week to manage conflict in the workplace:
- Contact a colleague with whom you have had difficulties and take him or her out to lunch to listen to his or her perspective. Just listen.
- Get your team together to raise issues where time, budget, and other resources are too scarce. Develop a plan for how decisions on these issues will be made in the future—note that you don’t have to resolve the resource allocation issues themselves, but only agree on the process for decision-making.
- Develop diversity programs to address conflict over differences in perceptions based on race, gender, and other perspectives. It helps to start small on what can be very emotional issues.
- Begin to develop an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process in your organization, which might include mediation, peer review, arbitration, and other tools, before employees bring legal claims against the organization.
- If your organization already has diversity and/or ADR programs in place, use this week to publicize them. Ask for suggestions on how to improve them.
- Conduct conflict resolution training for customer service representatives in your organization designed to address customer problems before they escalate toward formal complaints and lawsuits.
- Recognize the best conflict resolution leaders in your organization. These aren’t necessarily the people who paper over issues the best. These are the people who can constructively address conflict in ways that all involved believe are fair and respectful.
These ideas are not limited to corporate workplaces, but can apply in nonprofits, government agencies, schools, and other workplaces as well.
What other ideas do you have for promoting Conflict Resolution Day in your organization?