Get access to the exclusive HR Resources you need to succeed in 2018.
Sign up for free email newsletters and get more SHRM content delivered to your inbox.
Is your employee handbook keeping up with the changing world of work? With SHRM's Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Build competencies, establish credibility and advance your career—while earning PDCs—at SHRM Seminars in 14 cities across the U.S. this fall.
Gain the skills you need to rise to the next level in your career. Jon us at SHRM's Leadership Development Forum, October 2-3 in Boston.
Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.
Disagreeing individuals in an organizational setting often must continue interacting. Underlying feelings or perspectives not revealed or addressed may fester and erupt in a subsequent event, resulting in fractured cooperation, deeper discord or, worse, termination and litigation.
That’s why transformative mediation may be a more productive dispute resolution method in the workplace. Authors and mediation experts Robert A. Baruch Bush and Joseph P. Folger have said that the transformative method:
In initiating a transformative mediation-style session, the manager should set the following ground rules:
Transformative mediators pay careful attention to assisting and encouraging the disputants without providing direction or offering solutions. The challenges to a manager are to avoid making judgments by words, tone or body language; appearing to take sides; taking control of the process; and interjecting opinions or possible solutions.
Allow the employees to decide who starts the discussion. Listen and apply the different transformative techniques described below at the appropriate times:
Reflecting. Capture the content and tone of an individual’s words: “You’re upset that Ed hasn’t been handling his part of the project.” The employee has a sense of being heard, and the repetition reinforces the comments for both disputants to understand. A reflection also can draw out an unspoken reaction: “Don, you were frowning; do you disagree?”
Summarizing. Encapsulate several points made throughout the exchange by one or both parties: “Ed, you seem frustrated because the project has fallen behind, and Don, you feel the timetable was unrealistic.” This technique provides a recap and helps keep the parties focused on the issues. Summarizing also can emphasize common areas: “You both agree it was a complex project.” Or, it can highlight differences: “Don, you think responsibilities were clear; Ed, you indicated that there were no defined roles.”
Questioning. Ask open-ended questions to promote clarification or elaboration: “Ed, what do you want Don to understand?” Or, to both parties: “How would you like to see this resolved?”
Checking in. Inquire about status when the discussion appears to be nearing a stage of decision or impasse: “Have you discussed this point fully?” Checking in also can be used to gauge the value of the meeting: “Has this been helpful?”
Caucusing. Talk to one of the individuals alone when encountering a hardened position or reluctance to communicate with the other disputant.
Transformative mediation concentrates on resolving problems of interaction between individuals and not solely on settlement of a dispute. When both parties have fully aired their positions and each has gained insight into the other’s reasoning, the climate is prime for the parties to determine the best course of action going forward—for both the immediate dispute and future issues. Working relationships are less likely to be damaged when the individuals in dispute listen to each other, share opinions and feelings, and determine their solutions.
The author is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland University College in Adelphi and a mediator for the Maryland Commission on Human Relations.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please sign in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
Join SHRM's exclusive peer-to-peer social network
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies