It is important to know the conflict management style you usually deal with, whether voluntary or involuntary, but much more important is to recognize in your colleagues, superiors or subordinates the signs of conflict, because often, even if you don't like it, it is your job to resolve it and not to be complicit in it or to aggravate it. And a conflict is often hidden, simmering, waiting for the right moment to erupt, and when it does, all our work will be affected. What do we do if we recognize the symptoms of conflict in our colleagues? There are two options available to us, both of which require a neutral involvement on our part and a desire to end the situation: arbitration and mediation. We insist on the neutrality of the one who chooses one of the options, because otherwise the conflict would escalate and get out of control. They can also be combined depending on the complexity of the situation and the internal and external resources at your disposal. The difference between them is that mediation mainly uses negotiation between the parties, while arbitration involves taking a decision based on arguments and imposing it on both parties.
Thus, arbitration is the process of making a fair, balanced decision by a third person who can be likened to a judge, depending on the evidence, the arguments put forward, regardless of the relationship between the two parties.
Types of situations that require arbitration:
- interpretations of laws, regulations;
- conflicts of responsibility in the unit;
- long-standing conflicts between two people who are clearly unwilling to cooperate in a negotiation;
- conflicts that concern a practical issue and not the relationship between the participants;
- commercial conflicts.
The stages of the arbitration are as follows: a) preliminary discussion of the nature of the dispute and how to resolve it; b) presentation of information, arguments and possibly evidence; c) decision by the arbitrator.
Unlike mediation, arbitration has a clear beginning and an even clearer end point. The easier and quicker the decision will be accepted and implemented, the higher your level of expertise perceived by others. That's why the image you build up day by day, with every interaction you have and every smaller or larger decision you make, is important. Because arbitration does not take into account the will of the parties to resolve the conflict, and the decision does not necessarily have to be accompanied by explanations. It's preferable to do it though if you're going to continue working in the same environment.
Mediation is the process of resolving conflicts by assisting two parties to cooperate, collaborate and negotiate the terms of the relationship. The mediator focuses more on optimizing the relationship and respecting the rules agreed between the two parties, neutrally assisting in the construction of the solution, without suggesting or offering it. This is why it is necessary for the mediator to have certain skills similar to those of a psychological counsellor and to avoid imposing his/her opinion in order not to negatively influence the mediation process. The mediator may also be appointed by the manager if the manager feels that the mediator lacks these skills or if the boss image is too strong. A mediator must therefore be honest, balanced, have control over his own emotions, be able to analyze impartially the opinions and actions of the parties, be empathetic (understand the emotions, feelings and states of the other party without experiencing them himself), be able to maintain confidentiality, offer emotional support, be flexible and creative, and be liked by others. If you do not identify these attributes in your own person and do not think you can acquire them, if you are aware that you are intimidating others, then look for someone in your group who has them and to whom you can give the role of mediator in the event of a conflict, while you keep your distance and, if necessary, assume the role of arbitrator.
Types of situations that require mediation:
- strong hostility between the two sides;
- long-standing conflict that could not be resolved over time;
- a complex problem beyond the capabilities or skills of the participants, and they recognize it;
- one of the participants feels that they can solve the problem more easily in the presence of another person.
It goes without saying that the solution is needed because those involved have to work together and it is important that the relationship between them is a good one. If one of the parties does not want to work together and cannot be convinced, then mediation cannot take place. And if there is no need for future collaboration between the two parties, mediation is pointless and unlikely to succeed. If the event that caused the dispute happened recently, it is advisable to start mediation after the impact has lessened and the participants are less affected.
The stages of mediation are:
a) first contact with the first part;
b) first contact with the second party;
c) establishing the mediation strategy and communicating it to those involved;
d) listening to the parties;
e) exploring the issues and encouraging negotiation, consensus between the parties;
f) building agreements;
g) concluding the mediation and the main conflict and setting up, if necessary, further meetings to resolve other problems discovered.
Mediation can be joint, with both parties present, or separate, in which case it takes longer and the process is slower. In joint mediation, the mediator focuses on controlling the situation, involving all participants in the discussion, identifying basic needs, common interests and creating the conditions for agreement. If the mediation is separate, then the mediator's task will be, in addition to identifying common needs and interests, to offer support equally to both parties, to communicate carefully, carefully and sensitively the interests and problems of the absent party, and to preserve confidentiality where it has been requested. Separate mediation is time-consuming and energy-consuming and consists of building an agreement step by step until it becomes clear to all. If necessary, a joint session can also be organized if separate mediation has not led to a result or if it is necessary to achieve progress more quickly. But it can only be imposed in exceptional circumstances.
The success of mediation depends largely on the motivation of the parties to reach an agreement. If it fails, then you will have to resort to arbitration. At the same time, it is advisable not to accept a superficial solution that you think has been agreed only to end the situation or that you know for sure will not be respected or does not totally resolve the conflict. It is possible that, no matter how hard you try, you will not reach an agreement and then you should stop because to continue would be a waste of time because, under the circumstances, there may not be a solution. But decide this after you have engaged and tried and not before.
In both situations, the way you choose to include yourself in the conflict should be discreet, subtle, without drawing too much attention to it, so as to reduce tension, not increase it.