We all know that conflict exists everywhere. It's at home, at school, at work. So if there's conflict at work, how adaptable are the conflict resolution processes to different work environments? Well, that's a topic I'd like to take up with you today. And Marlene and I'd like to talk about how we adapt our processes to different cultures.
We can start by looking at a workplace as a system. Now we've talked about systems. A system is a set of components that work together to produce something, a final outcome. So there's a series of events that happen producing an outcome.
A workplace is like that, whether you are producing an idea, maybe it's an advertising campaign or you work in a factory putting out automobiles. You have various departments involved. If it's the advertising campaign, it goes through marketing, communications. You have writers, you have creative involved until you get that final product-- the campaign, the promotion. And of course, in a factory, you've got your engineers, your factory workers, mechanics. They're all working on producing this automobile, which is your final product.
Now, to make either of these systems work, there need to be some rules, norms, procedures. So workplace rules exist in all organizations. And they could be formal, they could be informal.
You could have formal rules around travel policy, dress code, even when you're supposed to be there. You can have informal ideas or norms, or traditions in terms of how people interact with one another. Some cultures, the rules are a little more conservative and tight. Other places, they're a little more relaxed. But all organizations have rules. And these rules will affect the way conflict resolution processes work in various organizations.
Let's take a look at some of the rules that could be affecting these processes. I've listed them here. Channels of communication. Now, that would be the procedures or the guidelines for how you communicate within an organization. So you have a problem, you have a question, can you go right to the person?
Say, you are working and you're an employee, you don't have a particular status, you just work at this company, but you have some questions and issues about something that email that came down from the vice president's office, can you just go in and talk to the vice president? What are the channels of communication? Is it an open office? You can walk in and talk to him or her or do you have to go through your supervisor, who will then talk to the manager, who will go up to the director, who will go to the VP?
In other words, the channels of communication might be quite hierarchical. And there's a certain procedure. There are rules that you follow in terms of how you communicate.
Or you may work in an office where the structures flatter, and it's an open door policy. If you want to walk into the VP's office, you can walk in. So that that's what we mean by channels of communication. What are they in any organization?
Contracts. Now, particularly with union and labor, they often have contracts that would determine how a dispute or a conflict would be handled. And so you'd have to pay attention to the contract in terms of how you would adjust any kind of process in that organization.
Status or role. So let's say you have a conflict with your manager, can you go right to your manager or do you have to go through your supervisor? Can you talk directly to one another?
Or perhaps, you were working on this advertising campaign and you have a conflict with a client, how do you deal with that? This is a client, a paying client. What are the procedures here? Can you deal directly or do you have to involve someone else in the organization? So status and role will really determine how you approach conflict resolution.
And then, of course, there's appropriateness. Is the conflict considered appropriate for conflict resolution? Is it a sexual harassment suit? Is there some kinds of abuse? The way you might handle that through you go to human resources, you look at some things legally. There may be some things you have to take into consideration there.
And in terms of appropriateness, do people mediate in this particular organization? Do the channels of communication allow it? Or does the contract call for arbitration or some other method?
So these particular rules have to be taken into consideration when you're choosing a process. So how do you choose a process? Well, you want to, of course, accommodate the rules of the workplace. And there may be times, however, when you would ask for an exception. Maybe the rule itself is the issue.
For example, maybe the channels of communication here are really at the rid of a problem, a conflict that's happening in the organization. So you might explore changing the rule or working around the rule. Can you ask for an exception here?
For example, there is a conflict here between a couple of individuals who don't talk to one another in this organization because of the hierarchical channel of communication. Is there a way we can bring them together in this conflict resolution process? So you can ask for exception.
But in terms of accommodating the rules, you have a variety of choices and you can work with the choices you have as a conflict intervener. So here are some choices that you could consider for the intervention. I've listed four here.
Now, conciliation might be appropriate in situations where you have a conflict between a couple of employees, maybe it's an employee and a manager, but there are time or geographical constraints. Many companies now are global. And let's say, you were working with someone across the country, different time zone. And you can't really meet in person, but there is a significant conflict.
How are you going to conduct the conflict resolution process here? Maybe work different shifts or you work in different parts of the country. Conciliation, where you could have someone speak separately to the different parties, might be an option here if you cannot meet face to face.
Then there's arbitration. Of course, if you've got a labor contract, union contract, it might prescribe arbitration as the method that you would use in that instance. And then, of course, there's mediation.
Now, mediation is ideal, because in mediation you're going to bring the parties together and face to face in the same room to work on this conflict with you as the mediator. If that's possible, that is an ideal way to go. And there may be times in an organization where that's allowed. You can bring people together, you can be in the same room.
However, you may get indication from the boss or the manager that you have a certain amount of time here to reach an agreement. And if you can't reach it, then they want to move to arbitration. They want to move to arbitration.
So you have to take your guideline here from the rules, the channels of communication. In that case, you might want to use mediation arbitration, known as med/arb. Which means you start the process as a mediation. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, you've been asked as the mediator to step in as the arbitrator and make the final decision.
So any of these processes here can be adapted to fit the workplace culture and the rules governing that culture and it's important that you as an intervener look at processes that you have available to you, become familiar with the workplace culture, and then adapt the processes so that they can help in the best way possible resolve the conflict for the parties involved. Thank you for joining me. And I look forward to next time.
An established set of relationships or procedures for communicating information within an organization or workplace.
Written or generally understood or consented to norms that govern individual's choices and actions within a given workplace.
A set of components whose behaviors affect one another, causing a sequence of related events leading towards an outcome.