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On the Fly: Resolving Conflict in Fast-Paced Work Environments

On the Fly: Resolving Conflict in Fast-Paced Work Environments

Author: Marlene Johnson

At the end of this tutorial, the learner will understand that conflict resolution processes may have to be adapted to function within a workplace environment depending on the pace of work.

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On the Fly: Resolving Conflict in Fast-Paced Work Environments

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The modern workplace has become a fast-paced environment. People are doing things in a hurry. They're trying to pack more into a day. So if there's a conflict, and you want to resolve the conflict, how do you find the time for conflict resolution process?

That can be a challenge if you're a Conflict Intervener. Well, I'm Marlene, and today I'd like to talk with you about how we can adapt the process to do it on the fly in a busy, fast-paced environment.

Now, all organizations or companies have a work pace. That's the schedule and the timing that they expect for work to be completed. And I think we would agree that more and more work environments are becoming fast-paced.

There's something called speed interest, that's a term here that we're going to use. Speed interest. And it's a common interest the people in the organization have about maintaining a particular work pace.

So if there is a fast work pace, the interest here is to maintain that speed so that things can be done efficiently and on time. So there's a conflict, and here comes a conflict intervener, with this process, which is take some time.

So how do we create buy-in for a process that's going to take time and might be perceived as being just too slow? We don't have time for this. We can't take a full day or two days out of our schedule in order to do conflict resolution.

So if you get that kind of push back, using an intervener can create buy-in by letting parties know that you can do multiple sessions. We call these mini sessions.

So we don't take anything away from the conflict resolution process, we simply adapt it by taking the process itself and dividing it up into smaller sessions. And these sessions might be for an hour or two, two or three hours, whatever fits the schedule.

So I want to show you an example of how that could be done. OK. So I've written down four sessions here, could be five, but for our purposes, let's look at how we might break this up into four sessions.

The first session here is ground rules and sharing perspective or stories. So the parties come in, if they're coming in together into the mediation, if that's what you've chosen to do. This would be the time to set up the rules and give them some uninterrupted time so each party gets to share their story, how they see this situation.

Then you could come back for the second session. And notice here I've written clarifying and questions and mutual exchange here. This would be a time for the intervener maybe to ask some questions, to clarify things, and for the parties to be able to have this mutual exchange. Ask each other questions, maybe do some more sharing of their own perspectives. And the intervener could help clarify the perspective of each side so that there's understanding.

Coming out of this, we can begin to identify interests. Move from positions to interests. And we can come back for a third session, and in this third session we put together the problem statement. What is the question here that we're inviting ourselves to answer?

And begin brainstorming options for how we can meet these mutual interests. How we can answer this question that we've set up with the problem statement. Then we can come back for the fourth session where we would evaluate the options that we've generated and write the agreement, the final agreement.

So this is one example of how you could break up the conflict resolution process without leaving anything out or giving anything short shrift. But you are breaking it up into several different mini processes.

Now, there could be two or three days between sessions, maybe a week, and these parties are still in conflict so there's one piece you have to add here. You have to add in-- and you would introduce it during the first session-- and that is a temporary agreement, because these parties are going to be continuing to work with one another and they're still in conflict.

So what do they need in order to work together in between sessions until you get to the end here and you've resolved the conflict with a final agreement? Now, sometimes this is called a MOU, or Memorandum of Understanding. I'll put those initials here, MOU. Stands for Memorandum of Understanding.

And in a more complex conflict where there might be a number of things involved, you might want to write up something a little more formal Memorandum of Understanding, temporary agreement here, that will allow you to work together through the whole process here until we get to writing the final agreement.

So adapting the process to environments that are fast-paced, mini sessions, is an excellent way to adapt the whole process. Now, there are exceptions. There are times with even a fast-paced environment the managers there, the bosses, whoever is aware of this conflict and has called you in, will be willing to take the time to sit down and do the conflict resolution process in one session or two sessions. And that is if the conflict escalates.

There are times when the conflict itself begins to intensify, kind of boil over. And if it reaches a point where the conflict itself is getting in the way of work being done, getting in the way of the work pace, the efficiency of the organization, people may just recognize that we have to stop here and do a conflict resolution process. And there will be no need to actually break it up into mini sessions.

So as the intervener, it's your job to, of course, work with the parties, work with the people who are in conflict who have called you, and take the process divide it up into multiple sessions if need be, and you can still move through it and be able to get to this final point where you're writing up an agreement after several sessions.

So thank you for joining me, and I look forward to next time.

  • Work Pace

    In any given organization or workplace, the schedule or timing in which work is expected to be completed.

  • "Speed Interest"

    A shared interest among members of a workplace in maintaining work pace when the additional time consumption of a conflict resolution process is considered.