Workplace Mediation, Consultation and Training
Conflicts in the workplace can reduce productivity, undermine employee morale, and take up valuable time of supervisors and managers. I have provided a variety of mediation and conflict management services to businesses, non-profit organizations, educational institutions and government agencies. Examples of these activities include:
— Three managers in a government agency, whose overlapping areas of concern required them to coordinate and cooperate in order to serve their clients, were in conflict. They ceased actively communicating with one another, creating an atmosphere of competition and suspicion, and their clients were not being well served.. Employees in the three departments no longer informed others of matters that were vital to the successful delivery of services to their common clients. Following extensive pre-mediation interviews, I conducted 2 two-day mediation sessions, held over a period of 4 months. The managers not only resolved their disagreements, they confirmed their commitment (and their staffs) to work cooperatively to meet the needs of their clients.
An employee had filed an EEO complaint alleging that his supervisor and manager had discriminated against him in job assignment and work conditions on the basis of race. The dispute had not been resolved through administrative proceedings and a complaint had been filed in the Federal Court. Following extensive pre-mediation interviews I convened a day-long mediation session that included the complainant and his attorney, the supervisor, manager, senior manager and two attorneys representing the employer. The parties reached a comprehensive and complete agreement that settled all issues.
— Conflicts between a manager and employee had continued for many months. Each accused the other of harassing behavior. Frequently the conflict was carried on in front of other staff members, disrupting the workplace, and causing employees to avoid interaction with either of the two disputants. To limit the impact of these contentious and bitter arguments all staff were working behind closed doors. Some staff had begun searching for other employment. I was contacted by the HR office to mediate the conflict. The disputes between the manager and employee were resolved and the entire staff made a commitment to a civil and productive environment.
— An accusation of bullying had divided the members of an academic department—some agreed the behavior was offensive and unwarranted, others chose to ignore or minimize the behavior and its impact. Departmental communications were carried on by email. The conflict was well known throughout the university. Students were changing their academic major or avoiding classes offered by this department. There was a common perception that conflict reflected poorly on the university. At the Dean’s invitation, and with the cooperation of the faculty involved, I helped resolve the dispute. The success of the intervention was expressed in the unanimous decision by the faculty to elect the person accused of bullying to be the department chair for the following year.
Group conflict intervention
— The sole female member of a 36-employee work group had filed a complaint of sexual harassment against two supervisors and a co-worker. I was contacted by the HR department and asked to help reintroduce the female employee (who was on leave) safely into the work group. The intervention involved extensive individual interviews with senior managers (there were 7 layers of management involved) as well as the people directly involved, group discussions with the employees, meetings with each of the 6 supervisors, numerous discussions with the department manager, and design and delivery of a training course on the organization’s policy regarding sexual harassment. After nearly a year, the female employee returned to work, successfully and safely.
EEO Mediation Program
— Over a period of 8 years, I helped design, develop and implement a comprehensive workplace mediation program to serve a government department’s 240,000 employees. The twin goals were to establish a credible and effective mediation program and to train VA personnel to take over ongoing training, mentoring, mediation service delivery and evaluation. The nation-wide program continues to be highly successful.
I trained more than 300 workplace mediators; trained and mentored over 40 mediation trainers; created and designed 5 workplace mediation and conflict management courses; and authored comprehensive participant manuals and trainers’ guides for all courses. I created an assessment process to evaluate the trainees.
Managing meetings effectively
— Department members, as well as their manager disliked staff meetings, finding them unproductive, and generally a waste of time. Also, some staff were acting childishly during meetings—feet on the table, tapping pencils against coffee cups, reading newspapers. Working with the manager to improve his ability to confront the disruptive behaviors and with the entire group to develop a set of basic guidelines for organizing and conducting meetings, I assisted the group to design guidelines to determine when meetings were needed, how to identify and prioritize topics, determine what items were informational and which required action, and assure that all essential information was available in advance of the meeting.
— For the United Way and its member agencies, I provided a one-day basic training course to executive directors, managers and board members in successful meeting management.
Conflict Management Training
I designed and developed all materials for a variety of training courses developed and delivered to various groups, organizations, businesses and government agencies include:
- Negotiation Skills and Techniques
- Conflict Management Techniques for Employee Assistance Personnel
- Workplace Mediation Skills and Theory
- Introduction to Workplace Mediation for Managers and Union Representatives
- Responding to and Managing Small Group Conflict
Representative Clients for Workplace Mediation, Training and Consultation:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of the Interior
- Department of the Navy
- Department of Veterans Affairs
- US Postal Service
- Customs and Revenue Agency
- Department of Fisheries and Oceans
- Department of Human Resource Development
Government of Nunavut—Department of Economic Development and Transportation
State of Maine
United Way of Greater Portland, Maine