The workplace continues to grow as a consumer of conflict
management and dispute resolution services. A number of
intiatives confirm that this is a vibrant sector in which to be involved. In the US and Canada there is an increase in the implementation of conflict management programs and demand for employment related mediation services. The federal sector is playing a key role in both countries. And yet as Bob Delaney of HR.com suggests-"the talent most lacking in corporate America is the ability to effectively manage conflict in the workplace." There is a lot of important work to be done in this area.
My goal as Workplace Section Editor is to provide easy access
to information about the workplace (not just in north America) that will enable you, whether as a practitioner or user, to stay up to date with developments in theory and practice. I also want to create a space where professionals and users
can meet and participate online in the development of an important dimension of the workplace: how conflict (broadly defined) is dealt with.
These are some of the initiatives that suggest vibrancy within the workplace, as it relates to the management and resolution of conflict:
The development of guidelines for the design of integrated conflict management systems by the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution is a significant development that will provide direction to practicioners and users alike. The full text of their draft is available online at www.spidr.org/article/icmsD.html. This document has attracted a lot of interest and will play an important legitimizing role for the importance of a systems approach to conflict management. It moves us in the direction of causes rather than cases.
The federal sector in the US has been required through law to develop workplace ADR programs.(The Administrative
Dispute Resolution Act of 1996). Their learning curve and experience is already filtering through to the private sector. In a recent NY Times article about the US Postal Service's REDRESS program the author asserts that investment banks,
dot-coms and other recognized brand-name manufacturers, are interested in mediation programs, and that "what is selling them, they say, is Redress's record."
The US Congress is in the process of passing an act (National Employment Dispute Resolution Act of 2000)that will require the mediation of all Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaints by certified contract mediators:
"Regardless of whether the Commission makes an investigation under this subsection, the
Commission shall provide counseling services regarding, and endeavor to responsibly
address and resolve, claims of unlawful discrimination using certified contract mediators."
It goes further and provides impetus for the development of workplace conflict management systems:
" An employer who establishes, implements an approved internal conflict management
program or system providing the use of a certified mediator participates in mediation
under this section shall be given preferred status in contract bidding for additional and for
maintaining current Federal Government contracts."
One commentator has suggested that the proposed legislation "packs a punch." The full text of the draft bill is available online at
http://mediate.com/articles/nedra.cfm. We encourage debate on the suitability of this legislation.
ADRWorld reports (August 31, 2000
by Justin Kelly) that a recent survey commissione by Jams/Endispute anticipates a rise in Workplace ADR.
"Attorneys say they expect the use of alternative dispute
resolution for settling employment disputes to increase significantly, despite growing controversy
over employers' use of mandatory arbitration agreements, according to results of a survey released Aug. 26." http://adrworld.com/
In another ADRWorld report (August 28, 2000) Justin Kelly writes about the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services mediator credentialing plan.
"A plan by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to
and maintain a list of approved neutrals for use by government
generating controversy among practitioners who say the move may
agency's authority and stifle competition."
And finally, mention must be made to the Core Principles for Federal Non-Binding Workplace ADR Programs that have been developed by the Federal ADR Council. They describe
ten key elements that are essential in any fair and effective ADR program. You can review them at http://www.mediate.com/workplace/federaladr.cfm
John Ford is the author of Peace at Work and founder of the HR Mediation Academy. He mediates; trains; and consults to organizations that have accepted the inevitability of conflict and are seeking to approach it with greater clarity and confidence. He was the managing editor of Mediate.com from 2000 to 2011, and is a past president of the Association for Dispute Resolution of Northern California.