Finding Justice in Conflict Resolution

Some people just don’t get along—it’s inevitable. With all the difference in personalities of the people all across the world, it’s no wonder we find people whose interests and values differ from us. In workplace situations we are faced with this dilemma occasionally. I know I’ve been in positions at school and in a work environment team and have found myself butting heads with others. It’s like some people just don’t mesh, like a water and oil analogy.

A big issue that people have when facing conflict is finding a proper compromise or solution. When facing a given problem, everyone feels like they deserve a just result. Regardless of any differences in our personalities, all people like to be treated fairly when a dispute arises. Being equitable and promoting justice in the workplace can improve morale and attitudes of the company’s staff.

The way a conflict is handled means a lot to an individual. I personally like to know that my opinion matters, and when I have a conflict at work, it’s important to me to have the issue resolved in a procedurally just way. Making sure that procedurally sound a just ways of dealing with conflict is hard but important factor in running a successful business.

In the workplace, if there are conflicting ideas of how to continue with a task, good and bad outcomes can emerge. Some conflict can be good and help produce better ideas and solutions. Since all people have different ideas, the more solutions that are given to a particular task can make for a greater pool of innovation to spark a greater and well rounded result. However, if a compromise with all these ideas cannot be created, an interpersonal strategy for solving the conflict must take place. There is an interesting figure (shown below) that takes into account ones concern for others and ones concern for oneself in interpersonal conflict situations.

This figure was created by M. A. Rahim. It shows that compromise is really the middle ground, and how breaking down and analyzing ones concerns can be beneficial in finding compromise.

In legal disputation matters that occur at work, third party conflict resolution methods can be useful in accomplishing this tedious task of resolution. Mediation and arbitration are good ways in which a third person can intervene when a dispute arises.

In British Columbia, mediation is used to settle matters of dispute in an informal way, where negotiations can take place with the help of an unbiased person. A settlement has to occur in this negotiation process, as the point is to find resolution without going to court. According to the Dispute Resolution Office of British Columbia, mediation is best used to when disagreements involve legal aspects, such as contracts and claims. Using this method allows for clarity and respect in the negotiations process. It may also help bring to light issues in which both parties have overlooked or not fully empathized.

Arbitration is the next step, if mediation fails. Arbitration serves as a more formal way to come to a conclusion between disagreeing parties. As a result, the disputing parties only present their claims, and are given a legally binding conclusion. There are no terms of negotiation in this process, so it’s a better method to be taken as a last resort if mediation doesn’t work.

Personally, I feel that when an employer and employee have a dispute, the best way to deal with it is using an unbiased third party that can help assist in the negotiation process. Doing so can avoid court costs and delays and in turn it creates a way to really discuss the issue. While arbitration is good to come to a conclusion if no compromised can be made, mediation serves as a better way to really preserve and maintain the relationship between two disputing parties.

As always, it seems that communication and understanding is the key to coming to a fair and equitable resolution to any conflict, whether it be work related or not. It is vital to understand your own concerns, as well as the concerns of person in which you are in conflict with to come to a true compromise.

Works Cited

AAoBC. (2010). AABC Online. Retrieved from Arbitrators Association of British Columbia: http://www.labour-arbitrators.bc.ca

B.C Government (n.d.). Guide to Mediation in B.C. Retrieved May 30, 2011, from Government of B.C: http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/dro/mediation-in-bc/index.htm

Rahim, M. A. (2002) Toward a theory of managing organizational conflict. The International Journal of Conflict Management, 13, 206-235.

Tjosvold, D., Wong, A. S., & Wan, P. M. (2010). Conflict management for justice, innovation, and strategic advantage in organizational relationships. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Vol 40(3) , 636-665.

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3 responses to “Finding Justice in Conflict Resolution

  1. I just want to complement you on your cartoon choice; it fully demonstrates that it would be impossible to resolve any conflict, unless there is common ground.

    It is often very difficult to find common ground when it comes to conflict resolution; which is why a third party can be really useful when it comes to serious conflicts. Outside mediation is not always necessary; I think that conflicts between employees can be mediates by management, and if there are conflicts between management and its employees then managers need to be well equipped to handle the conflict in a professional manner. This is why I think that strong HR departments within an organization can be extremely beneficial when dealing with dysfunctional conflicts. Read my blog “Toxic Tongue… To Job Well Done! http://bit.ly/j1lhYp where I discuss how my friend’s HR department at work was able to help turn a dysfunctional conflict into a functional one.

  2. Lisa,

    Absolutely love your picture at the top of this blog. It’s a great start to the article! I’m impressed with the length and detail you were able to provide on conflict resoultion while also sharing your personal perspective.

    I believe that the mediation and arbitration are good legal steps for a company to have in place. However, I beleive they should only be used when there is exceptional circumstance making them necessary. Companies should be able to control majority or their conflicts internally and therefore avoid these legal routes (and costs). An internal resolution would be better for the company as a whole.

    To follow up, imagine two children fighting over who gets to use the swing at the playground. If they can come to a consensus to share it at 5min each instead of calling over the principal and fighting infront of him/her, everyone is better off.

    Take care,
    David D.

    • I agree, David. That’s what I was getting at really– that these third party options are there for greater circumstances in which the problem just cannot be resolved by the two parties themselves. Glad you enjoyed the picture!

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