ADR Solutions for Academic Workplace Conflicts - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 57, No. 2
Suzanne Byron holds an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in information science. She is currently an instructor for the American Red Cross and is part of a team creating an evaluation process for the instructors in the King County/Seattle Chapter.
Monica C. Holmes is an associate professor in management information systems at Central Michigan University. She has experience mediating conflicts between members of the university community and often provides advice on avoiding conflict.
Karen F. Steckol is the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Cleveland State University. She has extensive experience in resolving disputes between individual faculty members, groups of faculty members, the administration and faculty members, and faculty and staff through union grievance officers.
Susan E. Yager is an assistant professor in management information systems at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville. She currently teaches courses in database design and visual basic programming.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
The university, being a microcosm of society, can offer important lessons in conflict resolution. In this article, examples of conflict in the academic workplace are discussed. The authors use five case studies to show how various type of disputes (faculty member versus faculty member, students versus faculty member, etc.) were resolved using ADR mechanisms. The results highlight the varying degrees of success achieved through the use of ADR.
“Conflict is a fact of social life. It arises from differences in beliefs and attitudes.”1 It is a part of our daily lives, but disputes are often stressful and unpleasant.2 Conflict is not necessarily bad in and of itself. Often conflict acts as a catalyst that allows an organization to survive, evolve, and progress;3 but it is better to bring problems forward than to have them simmer and get worse.4
Colleges and universities are different. L.D. Mankin5 notes that they have developed into a society of their own—complex social organizations with a myriad rules, both self-generated and imposed by outside stakeholders. To further add to the complexity, each department within each college/school within the university has its own way of doing business within the overall culture. Is it any wonder that misinformation, misunderstanding, and mistakes lead to confusion and conflict?6
What colleges and universities need is an explicit agreement among members of their communities regarding the process used to resolve conflict.7
Alternative dispute resolution is a way to manage conflict, dealing with conflict at its lowest possible level and providing an early-warning system for problems.8 Litigation, on the other hand, can be expensive, time-consuming, unpredictable, and damaging to the relationship. In short, ADR is an attempt to resolve a conflict or dispute by optional methods, avoiding litigation.
ADR models emphasize expressions of emotions, informality, face-to-face communication, maintenance/ improvement of relationship, joint problem solving, parties shaping the processes, decisions by consensus, and, if necessary, third-party assistance to develop a process from which people can learn.9