Appendix A: Summary of Key Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods
Offering observations or helping someone to reflect.
Coaching approaches to managing conflict, particularly asking ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions (rather than ‘why’ questions) can help a person understand a situation and interact more effectively with colleagues. A trained coach helps a person to reflect on a situation, to analyse interactions, and then to identify and practice alternative responses. When a similar situation occurs, the person will react with greater insight.
Managers coach staff regularly as a core part of their job. This coaching helps to align the work staff are doing with the work they should be doing. How a manager provides coaching feedback can significantly affect staff motivation – both positively and negatively. Coaching is now a recognised profession, with training standards and accreditation bodies. A coach can help a person to articulate aspirations, then clarify and achieve goals. Key techniques include open questioning, provocation, and assisting with analysis (rather than advising or directing).
Many organisations run formal mentoring programs. This allows a more experienced colleague to provide advice and serve as an example. Mentors can be internal or external. An effective mentor combines skills of coaching and reflective conversation.
People talking to reach shared understanding and (possibly) to commit to action.
Basic conversational skills can be strengthened with programs that help people to practise mindful listening, questioning, and narration. Strategic negotiation theory can be widely applied in workplaces and involves negotiating a shared understanding and a plan of action to meet each party’s needs.
A third party assisting the search for mutual understanding and optimal action.
Mediation has been the alternative dispute resolution flagship – and there are many different mediation formats, distinguished in terms of guiding principles, process, outcomes and type of program. For example, a distinction between evaluative and facilitative mediation is partly a distinction between programs, partly a distinction between processes, partly a distinction between outcomes, and partly a distinction based on the principle of self-determination.
Evaluative mediation focuses on the parties’ legal rights. The mediator assesses what an adjudicator might decide if the case were brought to court, then seeks some resolution consistent with these legal standards.
Facilitative mediation focuses on the parties’ interests and options and seeks to resolve disputes by meeting those interests. The facilitative mediator encourages the disputing parties to control much of the process and to make the key decisions.
Transformative mediation focuses more generally on helping the parties to understand each other’s values and interests to repair relationships. Accordingly, transformative mediation is often used for disputes involving interpersonal conflicts.
Despite these differences, mediation can be understood as assisted negotiation .It is (i) a generic process in which(ii) a third party assists the people directly involved (iii) to negotiate a mutually acceptable outcome.
The process should not be affected significantly by the nature of the mediator, or the nature of the hos tprogram. Each variation on a basic format is appropriate for certain situations. Any variations on the process should be determined largely by the nature of the particular case and the specific needs of the participants.
Mediation is understood to increase both:
- efficiency (decreases costs and reduces delays in decision making)
- effectiveness (increases a sense of procedural fairness, as those affected by agreements have been involved, and parties look beyond the narrow ssue of legal rights to consider their broader interests).
A ‘model’ process for helping people resolve their own conflicts through seeing the other person’s perspective.
Conflict presents opportunities for people to strengthen their relationships with themselves and others. Resolving the issues is only one of the desired outcomes when people are in dispute. Transformation in behaviour is achieved in part, by increased self awareness and insights. With increased self awareness, we are more likely to discover our choices and shift our behaviour.
One of the elements that underpin conflict coaching is that change in conflict behaviour is more likely to occur when people understand the concept of mutuality. This involves considering various elements of the conflict, from both (or all) sides. Self determination is a crucial component of coaching. Conflict coaching supports effective and productive working relationships. It is an equally useful model for anyone in an organisation offering insights into the dynamics of team and workplace conflicts.
A third party helping a group to achieve a collective goal.
Conferencing is a process that helps a group of individuals to manage their own relationships in the wake of conflict. The conflict may be associated with a single incident or with ongoing patterns of behaviour. The facilitator provides the process so that a group can understand what has happened, how people have been affected, and what might be done to improve the situation.
Appreciative inquiry is an approach to organisational development, adapted from work done by earlier theorists and practitioners of action research. Its guiding principle is that organisations can change adaptively by focusing on what works. Colleagues determine what goals need to be achieved, and focus primarily on ways to achieve these goals, rather than focusing primarily on problems that need solving.
Other Modes of Facilitation
The science and practice of effective group decision-making is growing rapidly. Promoters emphasise the public good of involvement, collaborative decision-making, citizen engagement, advocacy, mediation, consensus building and community building.
Appendix B: Other Resources and Further Reading
The Victorian Public Sector Commission has a number of documents relevant to cultural change work and conflict resolution.
- Conflict Resilient Workplaces: A Report for Victorian Public Sector Leaders (2010)
- Employment Principles and Standards (2017)
- Managing Poor Performance in the Workplace (2008)
- How Positive Is Your Work Environment? (2008)
- Ethics Resource Kit (2008)
- People Metrics Resource (2010)
- Talking Performance (2010)