March 12, 2018

How Teams Can Work Together Despite Opposing Views

While most of us forge friendships with like-minded people who affirm our strongly held beliefs, we don’t choose our colleagues. This makes it inevitable that at times some of the people we work with will hold different views on a number of topics, not least of all politics.

Historically, certain topics were off-limits in the workplace: religion, politics and personal dramas to name just a few. However, thanks to the advent of social media and 24-hour, multi-media coverage of politics, tensions in some workplaces are rising. Additionally, conversations about recent polarizing political events are being had despite the stress it may cause.

The American Psychological Association found in their post-election survey that nearly a third of all employees had witnessed coworkers arguing about politics, and 15% had been involved in an argument themselves. Furthermore, 24% admitted to avoiding some colleague because of their political views.

In an environment where people should be collaborating and working towards shared goals, arguments over non-work issues and colleagues avoiding each other is more than a little worrying. Such discord can end up affecting productivity, and will become evident as you conduct employee performance evaluations and monitor objectives and key results at work. So how should businesses deal with political discussions in the workplace?

Monitoring Workplace Conversations

It may be tempting to ban conversations about politics altogether, especially if they are adversely impacting workplace productivity and employee relations. However, monitoring every conversation throughout the day and nurturing a culture of distrust and finger-pointing to enforce such a ban is counter-productive.

As Sally Bibb discussed in her book ‘Strengths-Based Recruitment and Development: A Practical Guide to Transforming Talent Management Strategy for Business Results’, rich company cultures are built through allowing people to be themselves. Tolerance for different approaches and different views need to be nurtured and balanced by an equally weighted importance of understanding that business is performance-based. Although diversity is necessary, the common goals of the company should override personally held political or other views.

Simply put, employees aren’t robots who turn off their emotions when entering the office and return to their normal selves at the end of the work day. People bring their whole selves to work and workplaces are better for it. It enables inspired collaborative discussions and we all benefit from multiple views to help us find solutions to shared business problems.

Dealing with Heated Workplace Discussions

Tension in the workplace should never be ignored by company leaders, be it based on political or other strongly held views. It is unlikely that tension will evaporate spontaneously, and if it’s impacting performance it should be addressed sooner rather than later.

Recognizing differences, acknowledging points of tension, and addressing them openly can begin to dissipate ill-feeling. Rather than trying to change opinion or gloss over differences, managers should affirm with their teams that they can work together despite differing opinions.

Discussions on political topics should rarely be shut down, and guiding principles should be put in place to ensure talk is kept civil and all employees feel they are able to express their feelings in a safe and supportive environment without causing tensions or escalating problems in the workplace. The principles of respect, keeping the focus on achieving business goals, and fostering an inclusive and collaborative workplace should be conferred regularly in companywide meetings or in one to-one performance reviews.

Common Goals Bring Us Together

Just as there have been a number of polarizing political events in the past year, so too have there been occasions where people have put aside differences to focus on common goals. The same should be true of the workplace.

We will always have differing views to colleagues on a range of topics, from politics to how we raise our children. The key is to focus on the business’ worthwhile goals and put aside the differences that have no bearing on the tasks at hand.

By seeing the bigger picture of what the company is aiming to achieve, employees are better able to focus on key objectives, effectively collaborate, and achieve optimal employee performance.

Maintain Workplace Efficiency with a Social Media Policy

Social media has become one of the main sources for political news, especially for Millennials. Keeping one eye on feeds not only distracts employees from their work, but also increases the possibility of heated discussions interrupting workplace harmony.

Soft policies to minimize social media use during work hours can keep people focused and contribute to work efficiency. If political discussions do arise, managers should try to re-direct discussions to issues that impact work-life–not personal life. Additionally, they should encourage workers to keep it light-hearted with non-confrontational questions, rather than beginning discussions on heated issues where there is little-to-no middle ground.

Seek to Understand

Political discussions, or any discussion with people holding opposing views to our own don’t have to be difficult, and can ultimately be extremely productive. Having conversations with colleagues and people who hold differing views to our own with the intention of learning new perspectives and opening our world view can have positive impacts on the workplace and our lives in general.

Learning how to discuss politics and other issues in productive and empathetic ways can help us in all areas of our lives, from work performance reviews to relationship issues. Speaking with tact and listening effectively will make political and other potentially heated discussions easier and beneficial for both parties.

Politics can’t be ignored. The policies made by government affect every corner of our lives, but we can’t let it create a negative work atmosphere either. Today’s leaders and managers must show responsibility when enabling employees to express themselves freely to ensure a healthy company culture and the core standards of respect, inclusiveness and focusing on business goals can be maintained.

October 20, 2017

Conflict Audit: How Much Is Conflict Costing Your Organization?

Finally discover how to quantify the direct and hidden Costs of Conflict

Includes  A Cost of Conflict Calculator

By John Ford

© 2015

John Ford and Associates

Oakland, California


Measuring Conflict - What is it?

If we are going to measure the cost of conflict to an organization, we must know what to look for. What should we consider as conflict? Conflict is a difference about how expected needs are going to be met and we typically know we are in a conflict because of the emotional tension we experience. At a behavioral level we become aware of either distancing or combative strategies: gossip, avoidance, verbal abuse, passive/aggressive communication, and hostility. Conflict can be demonstrated by not returning phone calls, not having coffee with your colleague any more and filing complaints, grievances or lawsuits. At its combative extreme, conflict involves physical violence.

Direct Costs

Legal fees paid for conflict that escalates into a legal dispute are the most visible costs. Another cost that is easy to measure is insurance. Both legal fees and insurance costs can be determined from the company's financial statements. In 1986 the Rand Corporation estimated that it cost $100 000 to defend a wrongful termination suit. Today, employer defense fees are much higher, when the cost of defending a company's reputation as an employer of choice is factored in the balance. Theft and sabotage are both direct costs that can also be computed. The challenge is in showing the relationship of these costs to a particular conflict or employee.

The "Hidden" Costs of Conflict

Computing direct "conflict-related" costs can provide useful data; however, there are significant hidden costs within employee conflicts, costs that an organization incurs long before a lawsuit is filed.

For example, a team member's commitment to the team and the team mission can decrease if intra-team conflict remains unresolved. Conversely, if intra-team conflict is actively managed and resolved, the team member's chances for success within the team increases. Research shows that if unhealthy conflict goes unresolved for too long, team members are likely to leave the company or use valuable time to search for alternatives.

The Evidence of the Hidden Costs of Conflict

Several commonly tracked employee metrics can provide a wealth of data to analyze and track the true costs of conflict. Time spent, absenteeism, turnover and grievance filing are the prime indicators of workplace conflict. Measuring the costs of each of these factors can be used to demonstrate the added value of human resources interventions such as training and performance management.

Quantifying Time Spent Dealing with Conflict

The cost of resolving a conflict can involve the salaries of as many as four employees: the two who are in conflict, their manager, and the HR manager. It is estimated that Fortune 500 senior HR executives spend up to 20% of their time in litigation activities. Studies show that up to 30% of a typical manager's time is spent dealing with conflict.


Absenteeism is a conflict-related hidden cost that can be measured using a simple formula provided by the U.S. Department of Labor. Experts suggest that your absenteeism goal should be 3% or lower rather than the current average of 6% percent per annum.

Absenteeism Rate = Number of lost working days due to absence / (Number of employees) x (Number of Workdays) x 100

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports that health care expenditures are nearly 50% greater for workers who report high levels of stress and many studies suggest that stress is a byproduct of a conflicted work environment. Stress has seen a 316% increase as a reason for absenteeism since 1995. (1999 Unscheduled Absence Survey by CCH Inc)


Turnover is another hidden cost of unresolved conflict. The business costs and impact of employee turnover can be grouped into four major categories:
1. Severance costs - voluntary or involuntary
2. Benefits costs - compensation, etc.
3. Recruitment & staffing cycle time costs,
4. Training & Development costs,
5. Lost productivity costs.

Figures vary, but the turnover cost of one employee can be anywhere from 30% to 150% of the employees annual salary.

Grievance Filing

For companies with union represented employees, it is possible to benchmark the number of grievances filed per month. The cost per grievance can be distilled to determine the estimated costs to resolve a grievance at the first, secondary and termination levels. It is also useful to compare grievances filed per month with the number filed after training or other performance improvement intervention

Quantifying Productivity Increases

It is also possible to track the productivity increases associated with learning how to manage conflict better. For example: the time a manager spends dealing with conflict is noted for a five-day period. The manager's base salary is $35,000 per annum (excluding benefits and bonus). This manager typically spends 10 hours within a 40-hour work week dealing with conflicts between employees.

After attending a conflict resolution training that costs the company $300 per employee, the manager is more effective and only spends 7 hours per week on managing conflict within her team. If he/she spends 3 hours less per week in conflict, that is $18 X 3 hours X 52 weeks, a productivity increase of $2808 per year as a result of conflict resolution training.

ROI for Conflict Resolution Training

To calculate the return on investment, the following formula is helpful:
ROI=PI- Cost/ Cost
(where PI equals performance improvement)

Finally, the payback period can be calculated as follows:
Payback Period=Cost X 52 weeks/ PI
$300 X 52 weeks = 5.5 weeks


The ability to manage conflict is a critical skill in today's workplace: many organizations have identified it as a core competency for managers at all levels. It is ironic that many executives hesitate to invest time and money in improving their employees' conflict management resiliency when the net added value to the company's bottom line can be documented.

Direct and Hidden Costs: Facts and Figures


Increasing Complaints and Litigation

The general federal civil caseload increased by 125% between 1970 and 1989. In contrast employment discrimination case filings recorded a 2,166% increase.
Federal Courts Study Committee, (1989) "Tentative Recommendations for Public Comment." Proposed Long Range Plans for Federal Courts.

This trend has continued: in 1991 there were 35% more cases than in 1990, and by 1996 more than double the number filed in 1990.
The Eisenberg-Clermont Database

The EEOC reported a 22% increase in charges of employment discrimination from 1991 to 1993.
Bureau of National Affairs, Daily Labor Report, July 29,1994 at D20.

Retaliation complaints more than doubled between 1991 and 1998, with 31,059 cases filed in 1998.

EEOC statistics at

Increasing Litigation Costs

According to the Rand Corporation, the average amount spent by companies in defending wrongful termination lawsuits from 1980 to 1986 was about $100,000 per case.
Risser, R (1993) "Stay out of Court: The Manager's Guide to Preventing Employee's Lawsuits," Prentice Hall.

"Even when the employer prevails on summary judgment, he has usually spent $50,000 or more in attorney's fees, in addition to the organizations time and resources."
McDermott, E with Berkeley, A (1996) "Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Workplace: Concepts and Techniques for Human Resource Executives and their Counsel." Quorum Books, at pxviii

Years ago, if a situation had more than $100,000 at stake, litigation was a viable alternative. Today, the benchmark is $1 million and growing quickly.  Stewart Levine (1998) 

Increasing Financial Risk

From 1992 to 1993 awards from judges and juries in sexual harassment cases increased 98% to a record $25,2 million.
Stickler, K (1994) "For Job-Bias Suits, Ballooning Costs." New York Times, Sunday, July 17, 1994, at p F11.

According to a nationwide study, the average jury verdict in wrongful termination cases is over $600,000 and companies lose 64% of the cases.
"Without Just Cause: An Employer's Practical Guide on Wrongful Discharge," (1988) Bureau of National Affairs.

Annual monetary benefits for sexual harassment cases handled by the EEOC between 1992 and 1998 have increased from $12,7 million to $34.5 million. The figure for FY 1999 is $50.3 million and for FY 2000 is $54.6 million. These figures do not include monetary benefits obtained through litigation.
EEOC statistics at

Annual monetary benefits for ADA cases handled by the EEOC between July 26, 1992 and 1998 have increased from $0.2million to $49,1 million. The figure for FY 1999 is $49.9 million and for FY 2000 is $47.9 million.

These figures do not include monetary benefits obtained through litigation.
EEOC statistics at

A survey by the ABA of employment discrimination cases brought under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act reveals that employers prevail 96.4 percent of the time in court, and 76.4 percent of the time in administrative complaints handled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
July-August 2001 issue of the American Bar Association's Mental & Physical Disability Law Reporter.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance

"Intentional discrimination claims are not covered by an insurance policy."
McDermott, E with Berkeley, A (1996) "Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Workplace: Concepts and Techniques for Human Resource Executives and their Counsel." Quorum Books, at p 30.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) covers claims for discrimination or wrongful termination based on race, sex or disability. In a survey of 100 Human Resource executives, co-sponsored by Assurex International, the University of Miami and the American Mediation Institute, 48% indicated that they have purchased EPLI.
EPL Survey Report, Assurex International, the University of Miami and the American Mediation Institute, 1998.


"It takes an average of two years for the EEOC to investigate most claims."
Busch, R II "The Conundrum: Conflict- The Solution: Designing Effective Conflict Management Systems," 16 Preventative L. Rep. Note 4 at 13 (1997)

"The median time between the date a lawsuit is filed and the commencement of a civil trail is 2.5 years."
Busch, R II "The Conundrum: Conflict- The Solution: Designing Effective Conflict Management Systems," 16 Preventative L. Rep. Note 4 at 13 (1997)

Fortune 500 Senior executives spend 20% of their time in litigation activities.
Stewart Levine (1998) 

Up to 30% of a typical managers time is spent dealing with conflict.
Thomas, K and Schmidt, W. (1976) "A survey of managerial interests with respect to conflict. Academy of Management Journal," June 1976.

A more current study showed that 42% of a manager's time is spent on reaching agreement with others when conflicts occur.
Watson, C and Hoffman, R (1996) " Managers as Negotiators," Leadership Quarterly 7 (1) 1996


Stress has seen a 316% increase as a reason for absenteeism since 1995.

1999 Unscheduled Absence Survey by CCH Inc

The cost of unscheduled absenteeism is as high as $602 per employee annually.

1999 Unscheduled Absence Survey by CCH Inc

Absenteeism Rate = Number of lost working days due to absence /(Number of employees) x (Number of Workdays) x 100

U.S. Department of Labor Formula

Your absenteeism goal should be 3 percent instead of 6 percent per anum.

Levine, G. (199) "Absenteeism-causes and cures"

Absenteeism accounts for a 10% loss of productivity for employees in conflict.

Dan Dana, Mediation Training Institute International


The turnover costs for an employee is anywhere between 75% and 150% of the annual salary.
Phillips, D.T. (1990) "The Price Tag of Turnover." Personnel Journal, Dec. 1990, at p 58.

Another more conservative estimate suggests that the cost of replacing an employee ranges from 29% to 46% of the persons annual salary.

Bernthal, P and Wellins, R

HR Benchmark Group, Issue 2 (vol 3) February 2001

The Bureau of Labor Statistics use 30% as the base cost of replacing a worker and calculates the rate of turnover by dividing the number of employee separations during the month with the total number of employees at mid month.

What is a healthy turnover rate?

34.09% for the bottom 10% of corporations

20.87% for the top 10% of corporations

Excerpt from The HR Scorecard: Linking People, Strategy, and Performance, by Brian Becker, Mark Huselid, and David Ulrich. Harvard Business School Press.

The business costs and impact of employee turnover can be grouped into four major categories: 1) Costs due to a person leaving; 2) hiring costs; 3) training costs; and 4) lost productivity costs.

The Business Cost and Impact of Employee Turnover


Employee sabotage occurs when an employee intentionally inflicts damage on the organization or one of its members, ultimately inflicting a loss in production or profit.

There is a direct correlation between prevalence of employee conflict and the amount of damage and theft of inventory and equipment.

Dana, D (1997) Managing Differences

A survey of 1305 adults in the workplace revealed that 14% had observed Damage of machines or furniture

Source: Business Week
Integra Realty Resources' Oct-Nov 2000


 Cost of Conflict Worksheet


A: Direct Costs


  1. Legal and other Professional Fees

Name of Professional

Total Bill

  1. Sabotage


Equipment Replaced or Repaired

Total Bill




B: Hidden Costs

  1. Lost Time


Employee Name/Position

Hourly Rate of Pay

Hours spent on conflict

Total Cost

























Grand Totals





  1. Absenteeism

3.1 Calculate the absenteeism rate for the employees in question


Employee Name/Position

Number of days absent during the conflict

Number of work days since becoming involved in conflict

Annual Salary

























Grand Totals




Absenteeism Rate = Number of lost working days due to absence / (Number of employees) x (Number of Workdays) x 100

3.2 Calculate the loss of productivity for the employees in question.

For an absenteeism rate of 3% assume a 10% loss of productivity

For an absenteeism rate of 4% assume a 12% loss of productivity

For an absenteeism rate of 5% assume a 14% loss of productivity

For an absenteeism rate of 6% assume a 16% loss of productivity

For an absenteeism rate of 7% assume a 18% loss of productivity

For an absenteeism rate of 8% assume a 20% loss of productivity


Loss of Productivity = Total Annual Salary X Total Duration of Conflict (Weeks)/Total Work Year (Weeks)/10%, 12%, etc


Loss of Productivity = _____________ X __________________ (Weeks)/____________ (Weeks)/___%


Loss of Productivity Due to Absenteeism =



  1. Turnover

Name/Position of Employees who were involved in the conflict and resigned

Degree to which decision to resign was as a result of the conflict (expressed as a %)

Annual Salary



















Grand Totals




Turnover Costs = Annual Salary X Decision Reason as a % X 150%


Turnover Costs = $_________ X _______________% X 150%


Total Loss Due to Turnover =



October 11, 2016

Guidelines For The Design Of Integrated Conflict Management Systems Within Organizations

Screenshot - 10_11_2016 , 11_31_34 AM

By The Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR)


In 2001 a committee of the ADR in the Workplace Initiative of the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR) prepared these guidelines for employers, managers, labor representatives, employees, civil and human rights organizations, and others who interact with organizations. This document explains why organizations should consider developing integrated conflict management systems and provides practical guidelines for designing and implementing such systems. The principles identified in this document can also be used to manage external conflict with customers, clients and the public. It is the committee's hope that these guidelines will provide guidance, encourage experimentation, and contribute to the evolving understanding of how best to design and implement these systems.

Why Organizations are Developing Integrated Conflict Management Systems.

Organizations generally move through four phases in addressing conflict. Organizations in the first phase have no defined institutional dispute resolution processes. Organizations in the second phase have introduced rights-based grievance procedures -- some ending in adjudication processes such as peer review and arbitration -- for the resolution of conflict. Today, all unionized organizations, most government agencies, and most medium and large-sized non-unionized organizations have internal rights-based grievance processes. Some organizations have moved to the third phase, by introducing specific "interest-based" processes, often some form of mediation, to supplement rights-based processes. Increasingly, organizations are moving to the fourth phase, by developing "integrated conflict management systems." These systems include both grievance processes and mediation, but go beyond them, introducing a systematic approach to preventing, managing, and resolving conflict.

Organizations have moved to integrated conflict management systems for several reasons:

First, grievance procedures and most mediation programs are not available to address many kinds of interpersonal disputes that cause significant workplace disruption. Moreover, many in the workplace are unwilling to use these procedures. An integrated conflict management system introduces and focuses on other tools of conflict management -- referring, listening, anonymous problem identification and consultation, coaching, mentoring, informal problem-solving, direct negotiation, informal shuttle diplomacy, generic solutions, and systems change. These are the processes most employees are willing to use and are the processes most likely to prevent unnecessary disputes and to resolve conflict early and constructively.

Second, while the more formal dispute resolution processes such as grievance procedures and mediation are necessary, they are insufficient because they usually address only the symptoms, not the sources of conflict. An effective integrated conflict management system addresses the sources of conflict and provides a pervasive method for promoting competence in dealing with conflict throughout the organization.

For these reasons, when implemented effectively, integrated conflict management systems decrease the highly visible costs of conflict -- government investigations, legal costs and lost time associated with defending against charges and lawsuits -- and address many less visible costs of unaddressed conflict: loss of valuable employees due to transfers, stress leave, early retirement; movement to a competitor; loss of productivity; petty sabotage, waste, theft of intellectual property; increased health insurance claims; and the loss of public confidence when organizations are accused of allowing discrimination, harassment, unsafe working conditions, fraud, or other unacceptable behavior.

Effective integrated conflict management systems share these five characteristics:

  1. Effective integrated conflict management system provide options for preventing, identifying, and resolving all types of problems including "non-hierarchical" disputes between employees or between managers; and is available to all persons in the workplace -- workers, managers, professionals, groups, teams involved in disputes, and those close by ("bystanders") who are affected.
  2. Effective integrated conflict management systems foster a culture that welcomes good faith dissent and encourages resolution of conflict at the lowest level through direct negotiation.
  3. Integrated conflict management systems provide multiple access points. Employees can readily identify and access a knowledgeable person whom they trust for advice about the conflict management system.
  4. Effective integrated conflict management systems provide multiple options for addressing conflict, giving employees the opportunity to choose a problem-solving approach to conflict resolution, to seek determination and enforcement of rights, or to do both.
  5. Effective integrated conflict management systems provide necessary systemic support and structures that coordinate access to multiple options and promote competence in dealing with conflict throughout the organization.

Necessary System Support and Structures

To implement an integrated conflict management system successfully, an organization must develop support throughout its infrastructure, including:

  • Sincere and visible championship by senior management and workplace/union leaders who communicate and implement the goals of the integrated conflict management system, often led by one person who is the acknowledged "keeper of the flame."
  • A "continuous" oversight body composed of representatives from all key stakeholder groups. Managing the system requires dedicated resources and constant communication among all critical stakeholders. Regular meetings of the oversight body are necessary to increase coordination and communication.
  • A person or persons who function as an internal independent confidential neutral. It is essential that the person (or persons) who function in this capacity are independent and impartial, and that organizational policies protect the confidentiality of employees who speak with them. This person does not act as an advocate or representative for either employees or management, does not perform the functions of a collective bargaining representative, and performs in a manner that respects that role.
  • A central coordinating point (office or group). This group spurs the development and implementation of the system, administers some of its resources, and monitors internal and external best practices. It ensures coordination between access points and works with the oversight body to ensure that the system is responsive to information it produces and to changing circumstances.
  • System evaluation and monitoring mechanisms. Feedback loops ensure that there is a connection between conflicts, resolutions, identifying the need for systemic change, and assessing trends. Harmonious communication requires that each function know of, talk with, and refer to others, and that some accessible people know the entire system and any changes that take place in the system. Evaluation is key to a system's success, as it informs the organization of the strengths and weaknesses of its design, thereby allowing the opportunity for continual improvement.
  • Critical mass training, "just-in-time" on-the-spot training for individuals as needed, and educating managers, supervisors, union personnel and human services personnel.
  • Alignment. The organization must ensure that its mission, vision, values, and published policies are in alignment with the philosophy of conflict competency and that its human resource strategy supports the integrated conflict management system.
  • Institutionalization of incentives. Performance management and evaluation systems should reward continual as well as exceptional conflict management, resolutions which preserve or enhance existing relationships, and collaborative and creative problem solving. Participation in integrated conflict management system processes should be an element of performance appraisal and management.
  • Communication strategy. An interest-based communication strategy should be developed through discussions with workplace stakeholders and carefully implemented from the start of the process.
  • Cost Allocation. Costs should be allocated in a manner that gives managers and employees incentives to deal with conflict early and effectively.
  • Resources. Sufficient financial and human resources must be allocated to the system. While an organization must allocate funds and resources to develop and implement an effective, integrated system, the organization can expect that costs of maintaining the system will be matched or exceeded by savings resulting from conflict prevention and early and effective dispute resolution.
Design Considerations

There is no ideal integrated conflict management system that will fit all organizations. Each organization must design a system tailored to its specific needs and culture. Each organization will, however, face certain design decisions that are central to the fairness of the system. Certain principles are critical to the fairness of processes within a system and to the system as a whole, including voluntariness, protection of privacy and confidentiality, impartiality of neutrals, qualifications and training of neutrals, diversity and accessibility, prohibition of reprisal and retaliation, respect for the role of collective bargaining agents, and non-preclusion of statutory and workplace rights

Practical Guidance

The guidelines provide practical guidance in several areas: 1) determining whether an organization needs an integrated conflict management system; 2) phases and components of design and implementation of a system; and 3) critical elements in designing and evaluation and monitoring program. The guidelines also include a description of some highlights in the evolution of conflict management systems in the United States and a short bibliography.


Ann Gosline, Co-Chair, Mediator/Arbitrator, Litchfield, Maine
Lamont Stallworth, Co-Chair, Professor, Loyola University and Center For Employment Dispute Resolution, Chicago, Illinois
Myrna Adams, Special Assistant to the Executive Vice President, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina
Norman Brand, Mediator/Arbitrator, San Francisco, California
Cindy Hallberlin, Counsel, Brown and Wood LLP, Washington, D.C.
Carole Houk, ADR Counsel, Department of the Navy, Washington, D.C.
David Lipsky, Professor, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Jennifer Lynch, Q.C., President PDG Personnel Direction Group, Ottawa, Ontario
Nancy E. Peace, Arbitrator, Mediator, Trainer, Boston, Massachusetts
Mary Rowe, Ombudsperson, MIT, Cambridge Massachusetts
Anne Thomas, Director, Office of Equal Opportunity, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico


October 08, 2016

The Mediator's Stance: Omnipartial Defined

Screenshot - 10_8_2016 , 10_42_28 AM

One of the nine elements of the Mediator's Stance is being balanced and omnipartial. So when I investigated my colleague, Joseph Maurer's great website at OmniMediation I found...and loved the name of his firm but also his description of omnipartial.

Thanks Joseph!

Omnipartial Defined

"The essence of omnipartial mediation is that the mediator is on the side of all parties to a conflict. It is a stance more engaged than an impartial or neutral position, while staying committed to creating a process that does not unfairly advantage any party at the expense of any other party.

The mediator does not give advice on what parties should do. Nor does the mediator make decisions for the parties. The mediator does advise, suggest, encourage parties to consider new information, new ways of understanding, new ways of conceptualizing – and this process can never be 100% neutral – ideal perfect neutrality is impossible!

The omnipartial mediator uses the ‘power of process’ to lead a process committed to empowering the parties to making their own decisions. We will support all parties to the conflict to present their views and understand the views of others. At the same time we will help the parties to consider those views – challenging understandings to confirm, strengthen, build on, and even transform those views in the service of opening the road to conflict resolution.

You remain in charge. We ask tough, honest and empathic questions, while managing a process where all answers are acceptable – answers including “I don’t know” or “I don’t want to say”.

Finding the balance between support and challenge is our art. It is firmly anchored in our uncompromising commitment to remain an ally to everyone in the process by being an ally to the process itself. We’re on your side, and theirs – right where you need us to be to drive the building of relationships and resolutions."

A clear description of Confidentiality in Mediation


Joseph Maurer's description of confidentiality in mediation is also one of the clearest I have read:


We understand that privacy is important. From the start, all communications are held in confidence.

In a personal context this means that we won’t repeat anything you say – the things you choose to share, the stories you tell, the offers you make – all stay confidential.

In a legal context this means that communications made or submitted during the process from the moment of its inception shall be confidential to the extent permitted by law under California Evidence Code Sections 1115-1128.

No new evidence is created in the mediation process and all communications are ‘off the record.’ That is, nothing from the mediation is admissible in court, nor is it subject to discovery or compelled disclosure in noncriminal proceedings. The mediator can not testify about party communications or conduct in court.

Omni Mediation and the parties may disclose information about the process to their respective support people such as attorneys, therapists, provided that all such persons are also informed that the information is privileged under the terms of our agreement. How this process shall be managed between Omni Mediation and the parties shall be an ongoing conversation through the process as needed. As stated above, we recognize that privacy is important.

Confidentiality is a cornerstone* of the mediation process. Mediation is perhaps the most confidential forum and process available. It is a safe forum for the private reality testing of potential agreements, and a safe forum for making sure communications are heard and understood by other parties. We are happy to discuss any concerns you have in the management of this process in case the parties do wish to potentially release some information in a controlled manner. But that’s up to you. The process is confidential – full stop."

* On this, I differ. Confidentiality is the ideal but not an essential element of the mediation process. (JF)

October 06, 2016


Screenshot - 10_6_2016 , 12_42_59 PM


The 2015 Hiscox Guide to Employee Lawsuits
exposes the states with the highest probability
of employees filing lawsuits and looks at the
total cost of employee charges and litigation.

This report was compiled using the latest data
on employment charge activity from the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
and its state counterparts across the US.

Employment charges are often the first step
towards employment suits.


A representative study of 446
closed claims reported by small- to
medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
with fewer than 500 employees
showed that 19% of employment
charges resulted in defense and
settlement costs averaging a total
of $125,000.

On average, those
matters took 275 days to resolve.

The average self-insured retention
(deductible) for these charges was
$35,000. Without employment
practices liability insurance, these
companies would have been out
of pocket by an extra $90,000.

Most employment matters don’t
end up in court, but for those
that do, the damages can be
substantial. The median judgment
is approximately $200,000, which is
in addition to the cost of defense.*

About 25% of cases result in a
judgment of $500,000 or more.

*Employment Practice Liability: Jury Award Trends and Statistics 2013 Edition, Thompson Reuters.


Statistics for those in doubt about the hidden costs of conflict in the workplace...

An Integra Realty Resources' Survey of 1305 adults in the workplace
revealed the following:

42% Observed yelling or verbal abuse
29% Yelled at co-workers themselves
23% Cried over work-related issues
14% Damaged machines or furniture
10% Experienced violence in the workplace
2% Struck a co-worker

What is your experience?

Are you surprised at these results?

October 05, 2016

USPS FY 16 Mid-year REDRESS® Results


by Jeff Slye

Based on performance results it is easy to see that REDRESS® mediation has been a very successful part of the Postal Service’s EEO process. Clearly the Mediators have played a significant role in this success story. 

Through the 3rd quarter of FY16, nationally there have been a total of 10,354 informal EEO complaints filed with the USPS. The Postal Service’s fiscal year runs from October 1st until September 30th. Through June 30, 2016, a total of 3,685 of these informal cases have been mediated through our REDRESS® program. And of the 3,685 cases that were mediated, 1,996, or 54.1% were resolved at the table. This is a significant number of cases where the parties resolved their differences during mediation.

The consistent performance of REDRESS® mediation has been beneficial to the EEO function in forecasting yearly EEO formal complaint volumes. The EEO formal process is much more costly to the Agency in terms of processing costs as compared to the informal process. When complaints are resolved during REDRESS® mediation in the informal process, the Postal Service has avoided significant costs associated with potential formal complaints.

In addition to the percentage of cases resolved at the mediation table, another important measurement for EEO is the mediated flow thru rate as shown in the last column of the above chart. This rate reflects the percentage of mediated cases that go on to file a formal EEO complaint.

The difference between the percentage of cases resolved at the table and the mediation flow through rate are the number of mediated cases that are settled, withdrawn, or has decided not to pursue a formal complaint after the mediation is conducted.

Based on performance results it is easy to see that REDRESS® mediation has been a very successful part of the Postal Service’s EEO process. Clearly the Mediators have played a significant role in this success story. We thank you for the time and effort you put into each and every mediation session.


October 04, 2016

The role of Human Resources in the management of employment related conflict

Screenshot - 10_4_2016 , 2_37_13 PM

In an interview conducted in 2001 Cornell's Professor Lipsky was asked....What do you feel is the role of Human Resources in the management of employment related conflict?

I think it is actually critical. I know from my own experience there are quite a few HR managers who feel they are really involved in that or in some cases need to be involved in employment conflict.

I recently attended a seminar, where a very prominent HR person spoke of 10 or 12 things that are going to be more of a priority in the HR realm in the 20th century and he did not list conflict resolution or conflict management. I called this to his attention, and it just didn’t register on his radar screen, he felt this would still be best handled by council/attorneys and thus not a priority for him.

On the other hand, we have been doing a great deal of research and visiting a number of companies. In the process we found that in a number of corporations ADR, conflict resolution or whatever you want to call it, is still not a priority, however in the vanguard companies it definitely is!

With the vanguard, at least the ones we have been talking with, the HR department has been solidly in the middle of conflict management and resolution. They do indeed, whether you go to GE, Ford or TRW, or numerous others…the HR professionals will say this is a top priority for us and we need to design a system that will enable us to meet this need.

For the full interview


Workplace Conflict: An Inevitable Fact of Life

Conflict is an inevitable fact of any organizations life. Organizations that accept this truism, do so for many different reasons, and those that do, are able to access the beneficial potential of conflict.

The impetus to accept organizational conflict and work with it rather than against it, has, for the most part, been driven by the desire to avoid pain. The direct and indirect costs of conflict (not resolved or poorly resolved) has been a big motivator.

According to Cornell's Professor Lipsky "across the board, the primary motivators are cost and time (Both are terms used to discuss cost)." 

But there are also organizations who are driven by hope rather than fear, and in coming to terms with the fact that they will always have conflict, seek to deal with it as creatively as possible.

Again, according to Lipskey "in the vanguard companies . . .the HR professionals will say this (conflict management) is a top priority for us and we need to design a system that will enable us to meet this need."

The report of the Association for Conflict Resolution, (formerly Spidr, AFM and Crnet) on guidelines for the design of integrated conflict management systems will go a long way to provide direction to organizations, however motivated. 

According to the report, organizations that are managing conflict effectively share these characteristics:

1. They provide options for all types of problems and all people in the workplace, including employees, supervisors,professionals, and managers.
2. They create a culture that welcomes dissent and encourages resolution of conflict at the lowest level through direct negotiation.
3. They provide multiple access points. Employees can readily identify and access a knowledgeable person whom they trust for advice about the conflict management system.
4. They provide multiple options -- both rights-based and interest-based -- for addressing conflict.
5. They provide systemic support and structures that coordinate and support the multiple access points and multiple options and that integrate effective conflict management into the organization's daily operations.

The reality remains, that wherever an organization is located, it operates in a legal environment that will influence how it views and responds to conflict.