Assessing Workplace Conflict Resolution Options - Chapter 1 - AAA Handbook on Labor Arbitration & ADR, 3rd Edition
Kirk Blackard, J.D., a Houston-based Consultant and Conflict Resolution Practitioner, serves on the panels of mediators of the U.S. Postal Service and the National Association of Securities Dealers, as well as on the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service roster of arbitrators. He draws on thirty years' experience leading numerous business units at Shell Oil where he was instrumental in the development of Shell's internal conflict management system. He is author of Managing Change in a Unionized Workplace, and his articles have appeared in the DISPUTE RESOLUTION JOURNAL.
ASSESSING WORKPLACE CONFLICT RESOLUTION OPTIONS
Some counterproductive conflict occurs in all organizations. Thoughtful managers must consider how much time, effort, and money they are investing in such conflict, and whether they are dealing with it as well as they can. If the organization does not already have a formal conflict resolution system, management should consider whether the use of one would improve organization effectiveness and add economic value.
This chapter discusses factors management should consider when looking at the needs of its organization and available conflict resolution options to determine if a better approach is appropriate. It briefly reviews various options, outlines their potential benefits, and presents an approach for management to use in deciding whether it should adopt alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes.
II. Conflict Resolution Options
One option is for management to be essentially passive and allow the disputants (in conflict amongst employees) or the other party (in conflict between employees and management) to control the dispute resolution process. When this happens, a management with a firm position as to the substance of a dispute may nevertheless allow the employee or employees involved to determine the process through which it is resolved. For example, management might aggressively defend a decision or policy at the heart of a controversy, but nevertheless allow employee complainants to decide when to surface the dispute, whether to appeal a decision internally or externally, or whether to litigate. In such cases, management implicitly relegates decisions as to how conflicts will be resolved to the employees involved.