Being a professional mediator requires reflecting on your past conflicts and learning from them. Learning how we deal with conflict can make us better mediators and behave in a more ethical and neutral manner, particularly when mediating similar disputes. For this report, you are required to:
Identify a past conflict you have experienced in the past and describe the cause of the conflict and how it was manifested ? Evaluate how your conflict resolution strategies were effective/ineffective ? Explain how mediation and one other conflict management approach would have been appropriate/inappropriate for resolving this conflict ? Identify and describe three ways in which your conflict could have been mediated to achieve a more positive outcome ? Describe how you would mediate such a similar dispute, explaining your role in the process and the steps you would need to take to remain neutral and follow ethical guidelines.
An ideal and effective mediator must reflect on past experiences and learn from them for behaving in a more neutral manner during future disputes. Based on this aspect, the thesis statement of the report is to identify the previous manifestations towards conflicts and its mediation. Inclusion of previous research enhances the clarity of the readers regarding the conflicts, which were evident in the earlier time. Along with this, the previous research also makes the readers aware of the approaches undertakes for achieving negotiations. As a final touch, proposition of recommendations would be a new insight into the aspect of resolving conflicts.
Conflicts are indispensable in workplace and almost all industries have to encounter both personal and professional conflicts among employees. In this report, I intend to reflect on one of my past experiences that involved a personal conflict between an employee and the team lead. The employee, belonging from a different cultural background was stereotyped by her peers. Although the employee was initially not bothered about the stereotyping and the segregation until things started to get a little tense following a scuffle with the supervisor. The problem was triggered by a light-hearted conversation on a culture-sensitive issue; which later manifested as a brawl, an unacceptable workplace scenario that involved the supervisor, along with some other members of the team yelling at the employee; while she responded with equal indiscretion.
The team was deciding on a date and place for a team dinner when Divya, who happens to be an Indian and an animal activist expressed her aversion to eating at a restaurant that is attached to a butcher shop. The team lead, Sal, and majority of the members were fixated on that particular restaurant and when Divya vocalized her opinions about meat consumptions, she was met with serious gas-lighting and amoral criticism. Her over-reaction might have been justified to a certain extent but the name-callings were largely inappropriate. The team leader unreasonably levelled stereotypical assumptions at her; claiming that the cultural values of her country have made her intolerant towards other cultures and people with different lifestyles and habits. While the behavior meted out to Divya was downright inappropriate and totally unacceptable as far as suitable corporate culture is concerned, Divya’s name-calling and rather violent stance of defending herself cannot be condoned.
The scenario ruffled their feathers and both the parties started developing professional issues following the personal conflict. The team leader stopped being as cooperative with Divya as he used to be earlier and the peers who were involved in the argument visibly avoided her. This tension at workplace affected Divya’s productivity and as the issues persisted, she considered resigning from the company. By the time the matter was escalated to the higher authorities, things have gone too out of hand and there were not much the managerial or the HR department could do about it. When asked the reason for her drastic and hasty decision, Divya said that she felt awfully out of place and misunderstood within the office premises and her lack of motivation is preventing her from carrying out the duties effectively and efficiently.
Insight into the conflict
The other party involved in the conflict retorted that Divya’s vociferous antipathy towards their eating habits and culture was downright offensive and unacceptable. It had boiled down to a predicament where neither of the parties were willing to resolve the conflict that was the source of all these misgivings. It must be taken into consideration that Divya has so far been a highly efficient and productive employee of the company; a valuable asset to the organization, her absence would be a loss for the department. The situation called for a mediator to come up with effective conflict resolution strategies that help restore peace among the employees and Divya to revisit her decision about quitting.
From what is observed by critically analyzing the background of the situation, the problem arose from a cross-cultural conflict. There is a noticeable empathy gap between the opposing parties and neither of them are willing to resolve it through simple and suitable means (Boer and Fischer., 2013). The following strategies were employed by the mediator to help them resolve the disputes:
An open-ended conversation works for the best in scenarios such as these. As a mediator, I was expected to pacify the heat between them. Divya, along with the people she had the conflict with was called to the panel room for addressing the issue (Fischer-Lokou., 2016). The aim was to make them listen to each other for the sake of understanding; since so long they were only attempting to get their voices heard without bothering to listen to that of the opponent. The strategy was to let them have their turns to present their opinions and an opportunity to validate the argument.
Focusing on the problem more than the people associated with it- The subject matter of the conflict is a universally sensitive issue and hence the message can be humanized (Moore, 2014) in a way that it does not hurt the sentiments of either parties. The aim was to eradicate the blame game and see things exactly for what they are; that is, different. The people involved in the conflict have failed to address the differences in their culture and beliefs and that has resulted to an attack on the people instead of the problems.
The central focus was to eliminate the empathy gap as much as possible and open communication is the most suitable strategy for achieving it. Divya and her peers were individually groomed by the mediator to review their message before sending it out to the other party (Sandu, 2014). They were encouraged to engage in a constructive conversation that involves reflecting on their choices and preferences. They were requested to demonstrate due respect for the culture represented by each person and be tolerant of each other’s lifestyle and habits. Choosing a neutral location is integral to this strategy since the aim is to engage them in collaborative and productive talk and that requires a neutral ground.
While there was no shade of doubt about the fact that the situation called for an open and civilized conversation between the people involved in the conflict; the austerity of the problem required a more theoretical approach of conflict management. The strategies employed by the mediator had short-term effects but failed to address the heart of the matter, which was cultural diversity and difference in workplace and the inability of people to acknowledge, accept and look past their differences. The strategies were effective to the extent that it enabled restore peace in the environment temporarily, although it cannot be guaranteed that matters like this would never crop up again in the office.
Conflict resolution strategy
Further, the problem is a concrete indication to the fact that the employee relationship of the company are not favorable and reciprocal (Saundry et al., 2013). The employed conflict resolution strategies sees the people, identifies the problems associated with it and is fairly effective in providing an immediate solution to the problem. The shortcoming of the strategies is its near-sightedness. As already mentioned earlier, the there is more to the problem that meets the eye and hence it needed a more theoretical approach for identifying the root cause of the issue and come up with a solution that is far-sighted enough to uproot it.
As the scenario and the evaluation of the conflict resolution strategies suggest, a complete consolidation among the parties in conflict require an alternative, sound approach to conflict management. The resolution process must involve the role of a mediator, someone who is professionally trained to resolve issues in the workplace, by employing conflict management theories. Here are three ways in which the conflict could have been mediated to achieve a more positive outcome:
One of the most significant factors of Thomas’s and Kilman’s conflict management styles, technique of collaboration would have been most suitable for application in a situation like this. This situation is complex and requires a novel solution. Since both the parties have their own valid reasons the only viable solution would be a win-win approach instead of a win-lose one. The role of the mediator would be to reframe the challenge and create more space to accommodate everybody’s opinions. The mediator must try to get everyone on board to synthesize all the ideas and opinions of the employees (Penarroja et al., 2013).
This step is a corrective strategy to rectify what had not been addressed earlier for resolving the conflict. If a problem like this (the one talked about in the ‘background’ section) arises, the mediator needs to make a note of all the relevant questions to ask the employees involved in the conflict. The questions must be framed in a way that it serves to clear the misconceptions each party might be harboring for each other. The focus of a session like this is to identify the cause of the conflict and recognize the reasons for its manifestation. This strategy will not only help resolve the issue, but also eliminate the possibilities of its reappearance.
The crisis aroused due to a gap in communication besides a lack in understanding of alternative perceptions. For an ideal resolution of the conflict, the mediator must focus on recognizing the perception of the conflicting parties and look for ways to empower them (Lewis and Umbreit., 2015). For a situation like this, the ideal strategy would be to merge the narrative style of mediation with the transformative style in order to ensure the best possible outcomes. The narrative style of mediation emphasizes on human activity and the way they perceive of their lives and conflicts (Midgley and Pinzon., 2013). This process advocates a change in the way people speak and perceive of what has been spoken to them. Merging both the mediation styles will help people focus more on seeking solutions than associating themselves too much with the problem.
If a similar dispute such as this reappears in the future, the mediation strategy would be to be more proactive rather than reactive. The aim is to take better decisions which requires a well-planned strategy for addressing the issue in a non-biased way. It would be appropriate to point out the mistakes of the people involved in the conflict indirectly instead of blatantly telling them that they are wrong. If need be, the mediation technique will involve a compromise wherein both parties come to an agreement and each of them believe that they have the longer end of the stick.
The report outlines some of the most effective strategies that can be employed by mediators for coming up with unique solutions for resolving conflicts. From what is observed in the discussion, a problem like the one elaborated in the background, requires a far-sighted approach to conflict management for resolving the issue once and for all. A gap in empathy and communication is the central reason for moral conflicts like these and a theoretical approach to resolving these conflicts would address the matter suitably and prevent them from arising in the future.
If the employees are indulged in group discussions, their adjustability skills would be enhanced. Along with this, group discussions would resolve the cultural differences between the employees would be reduced. Constant supervision needs to be included in these discussions, as negligence can worsen the issue. These supervision would help the supervisors to assess the response of the employees towards the workplace issues. Constant evaluation would help to upgrade the standards and quality of approaching the conflicts. Moreover, it would assist in altering the workplace conditions for reducing the conflicts. Communication would be effective in terms of gaining an insight into the mindset of the employees. This would mitigate the chances of conflicts.
Boer, D., & Fischer, R. (2013). How and when do personal values guide our attitudes and sociality? Explaining cross-cultural variability in attitude–value linkages. Psychological Bulletin, 139(5), 1113.
Fischer-Lokou, J., Lamy, L., Guéguen, N., & Dubarry, A. (2016). Effects of active listening, reformulation, and imitation on mediator success: Preliminary results. Psychological reports, 118(3), 994-1010.
Lewis, T., & Umbreit, M. (2015). A humanistic approach to mediation and dialogue: An evolving transformative practice. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 33(1), 3-17.
Midgley, G., & Pinzón, L. A. (2013). Systemic mediation: Moral reasoning and boundaries of concern. Systems research and behavioral science, 30(5), 607-632.
Moore, C. W. (2014). The mediation process: Practical strategies for resolving conflict. John Wiley & Sons.
Peñarroja, V., Orengo, V., Zornoza, A., & Hernández, A. (2013). The effects of virtuality level on task-related collaborative behaviors: The mediating role of team trust. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3), 967-974.
Sandu, A. (2014). Mediation-Communicative Action and Philosophical Practice. Romanian Journal for Multidimensional Education/Revista Romaneasca pentru Educatie Multidimensionala, 6(1).
Saundry, R., McArdle, L., & Thomas, P. (2013). Reframing workplace relations? Conflict resolution and mediation in a primary care trust. Work, employment and society, 27(2), 213-231.
Gutenbrunner, L., & Wagner, U. (2016). Perspective-taking techniques in the mediation of intergroup conflict. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 22(4), 298.
Thomas, K. W. (2008). Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode. TKI Profile and Interpretive Report, 1-11.
Wallensteen, P. (2018). Understanding conflict resolution. SAGE Publications Limited.
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