Within some organizations, there is an increased use of one-on-one coaching by internal staff trained to provide coaching. Ombuds have been providing coaching assistance for many years and to varying extents, so have some other internals, e.g. human resource professionals. The thrust of this article is about peers coaching peers, within the workplace. The concept is consistent with the notion of building internal capacity and resolving disputes as close to the source as possible, without incorporating third parties.
Peer Conflict Coaching
Peer coaching may be used for many reasons and in many contexts, including conflict. Peer conflict coaching is a specific process in which staff members coach others at their same 'level'. That is, manager to manager, non-manager to non-manager. Peer conflict coaches have a number of functions. These may include, but are not limited, to the following:
- coaching a peer about a past unresolved dispute that continues to adversely effect him/her
- coaching a peer about a current workplace dispute or about preventing an unnecessary one
- coaching a peer to prepare for a workplace mediation
- coaching a peer post-mediation, with respect to any negative aftermath
- coaching a peer to prepare for an anticipated challenging conversation with another co-worker, manager, direct report, etc.
- providing emotional support and a confidential 'gear', regarding a dispute situation
- directing staff to relevant resources, policies and so on, that may be of assistance.
As with other dispute resolution processes within an integrated conflict management system, or as one of the ADR programs offered in an organization, there are many variable factors to consider in the effective development of a peer conflict coaching program. The selection of coaches, their training, the parameters of their involvement, terms of confidentiality, ethical standards and so on, are all variables to be considered, in the development of such a service.
Conflict coaching is increasingly evolving as a major dispute resolution technique. The concept of peer conflict coaching will inevitably join the list of mechanisms available to organizations, in their efforts to prevent unnecessary disputes and assist staff members to effectively resolve conflict in the workplace. Not all staff choose to have a third party mediator and the option of one-on-one assistance appeals to many. Being able to access internally trained coaches, who are also peers, has additional appeal for many people.