I think we would all agree that our world would be a much better place if we could all get along with one another and live in perfect harmony. However, this isn't realistic. Conflict is an inevitable part of life; in our workplace, within our families, and most anywhere there is human interaction.
It may be safe to say that conflict can fall into two categories: positive conflict, and negative conflict.
Negative conflict occurs when we respond inappropriately to conflict situations. The most common of these responses are to avoid or ignore the situation; to become agressive and confrontational; or rush to solve problems before we're sure of what the issues are.
Positive conflict, on the other hand, occurs when we are able to manage our emotional responses and engage in a way that resolves a dispute to the satisfaction of the parties involved.
But we know it's not easy. Often we need help. Common Ground Mediation & Consulting specializes in dealing with conflict management in the workplace and offers these services:
mediation of specific disputes;
developing a custom built 'Informal Conflict Resolution Guide';
facilitating workshops to develop individual and organizational conflict competence; and
conducting independent investigations or reviews and providing reports with recommendations.
It is often the case, when I am asked to act as a mediator for workplace conflict, that there is not a specific dispute that needs to be resolved. Rather, there is a general workplace 'malaise' or some degree of dysfunction. People are simply not as happy as they should be and often a level of incivility is creeping in that managers find disturbing. And they are at a loss for how to deal with it.
A workshop can often be the first step to turn things around. Common Ground Mediation offers a 4-hour workshop in which participants identify the key values in how they work and communicate with one another in the work environment. They are then asked to provide examples of how each of these values are (or should be) demonstrated. As well, there are several exercises to choose from to help drive home the importance of trust, sound communication techniques, and understanding the differences in 'working styles'.
The workshop participants then develop a "Workplace Charter for Dignity & Respect", which summarizes the 'Values' and how they are demonstrated. The Charter template is then drafted and the workshop ends with a discussion on printing and displaying the Charter for continued reference. We call this workshop, "Pushing the Reset Button".
We recognize that workplace disputes can often be resolved with appropriate early intervention on the part of supervisors and managers. It is frequently the case, however, that managers have not acquired the necessary leadership skills to foster and maintain a healthy and productive work environment. Common Ground Mediation & Consulting offers one-on-one leadership training, coaching and mentoring. Through this approach a manager is introduced to Situational Leadership (using the book, Leadership and the One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard, et al), and Building Conflict Competence (using the book, Conflict 101: A Manager's Guide to Resolving Problems So Everyone Can Get Back to Work by Susan Shearouse). The coaching and mentoring involves 8 one-hour weekly sessions to review the week's successes and challenges; discuss how these successes and challenges relate to the concepts and principles of Situational Leadership and Conflict 101; and assess/measure progress.
Please see My Resource List for other leadership and conflict resolution references.
Mediation is an informal, yet structured, process where an independent person (the Mediator) guides the parties in a collaborative effort to find a resolution that is satisfactory to both. Mediation offers the greatest degree of flexibility for the parties to achieve a resolution themselves rather than have a decision imposed on them through arbitration or court proceedings.
The main focus of my mediation practice is in the area of workplace disputes, and the mediation of commercial or contract disputes.
I would describe my mediation style as open and relaxed, maximizing the opportunity for parties to explore each other's interests, and to seek the best options for settlement. My role as a mediator and facilitator is to identify and address any power imbalances so there is an equal opportunity for each of the parties to be heard and understood. I also place a great deal of importance in explaining the mediation process at the outset, so the parties are well-prepared to work through an interest-based mediation session.
Once I am contacted by one or both of the parties, I try to arrange a pre-mediation conference with each of the parties separately. The purpose of the conference is to determine the motivation and the readiness of the parties to engage in a mediated discussion with each other. I spend time with the parties to get an understanding of the complexity of the dispute, what barriers have prevented an agreement, what the default communication style is of each of the parties, and to determine what 'position' each of them takes in the dispute. This helps to decide, between us, whether mediation is an appropriate dispute resolution approach in the circumstances.
If there is agreement to mediate, the mediation session is scheduled. My experience indicates the best results are achieved when a session is limited to two hours. A second session may follow if the parties feel progress is being made. However, if the parties cannot reach resolution at the end of the second session it is unlikely that mediation will be successful.
For more information about what mediation is, please visit the Mediation Yukon web site. The web site also has a Roster of Mediators and a profile for each mediator. The profiles describe the mediator's area of specialty so that a mediator can be chosen to best match the situation. A brief summary of my mediation profile is included on the Roster of Mediators page for your consideration.
Arbitration is a form of dispute resolution where an independent person, the arbitrator, receives representation from the parties in dispute and makes a decision. The decision can be binding on the parties, or not, depending on the terms under which the arbitrator is engaged.
My experience as an arbitrator was gained over 10 years as the Yukon's Information & Privacy Commissioner (IPC). Under the Yukon's Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (ATIPP) Act, I reviewed decisions by public bodies about rights of access and dealt with complaints related to the protection of personal privacy.
This review process involved the careful consideration of representation from the parties in the dispute; examining the provisions of the ATIPP Act; and rendering an informed written decision. During my time as IPC every decision that was appealed to the Yukon Supreme Court was upheld by the Court.
Since my retirement as IPC, I approach the role of Arbitrator in the same way: a careful consideration and analysis of the evidence, and the timely production of an informed written decision.
Sometimes the best option for dealing with a difficult situation is to have the matter examined by an independent investigator. Here are some of the benefits:
Common Ground Mediation & Consulting offers professional investigative services in a timely manner.
The typical approach includes:
All investigations are carried out under a Confidentiality/Non-Disclosure Agreement between Common Ground Mediation & Consulting and the Client.
Fair administrative practices are an essential part of providing government programs and services. Public expectations are high, and governments do strive to deliver those services professionally and fairly.
Nevertheless, policies and practices are not always applied in ways that meet fairness standards. Sometimes the policies and guidelines themselves are flawed for a variety of reasons - they may be outdated and in need of revision, as an example.
Common Ground Mediation & Consulting offers the following services to improve administrative fairness:
Fair Information Practices within public bodies (government departments and agencies) are legislated. In the Yukon, the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (the ATIPP Act) is intended to make public bodies more accountable to the citizens they serve. The ATIPP Act prescribes how information is to be made available to the public; sets out the exceptions to the right of access; and how personal information must be safeguarded from unauthorized disclosure. The Act also has rules for the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information.
Businesses in Canada must comply with the federal private sector legislation, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). This means that all personal information collected and used for commercial purposes must be protected by the 10 Privacy Principles in PIPEDA.
Privacy protection rules for Non-Profit Organizations are not regulated in the same way as for governments and Canadian businesses. The personal information of Non-Profit Organization employees is regulated by PIPEDA, but information collected and used by such organizations is not specifically covered. Non-Profits are encouraged to voluntarily adopt the 10 Privacy Principles so they can demonstrate to clients, members, partners, that personal information is being properly protected. An example may be a sport organization being able to satisfy parents of children registered in a sports program that their personal information, and that of their children, is protected.
Self-Governing Yukon First Nations similarly do not fall squarely within any federal or territorial regulatory scheme for information access or privacy protection. Some SGYFNs are enacting their own legislation, incorporating the same universal access and privacy principles for governmental (public) bodies.
Common Ground Mediation & Consulting offers the following services:
The role of Fairness Monitor has become an increasingly important function in public procurement. Governments have an obligation to conduct their contracting services in ways that are open, transparent, and accountable.
Particularly in situations where procurements are complex, involve high dollar amounts, or are politically sensitive, there is a great advantage to engaging a Fairness Monitor.
Common Ground Mediation & Consulting can be engaged as Fairness Monitor to provide the following services:
Hank Moorlag holds the Osgoode Certificate in Public Procurement Law and Practice.
The information presented here is in an 'accordian' style. Simply click on any of the headings to expand the box and reveal relevant (and hopefully helpful) information.
Mediation Yukon Society
"How to Complain Effectively"
"Hearing a Complaint"
Presentation to AYSCBC