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Conflict Resolution Advisors Project

After conducting many workplace investigations across multiple industries, our conclusion is that many investigations could have been prevented. As investigations are at the end of the long-standing conflict, prevention could have saved thousands of dollars, hundreds of personnel hours focused on the conflict, reduced absences from work, and increased productivity. This observation is shared by every professional we’ve spoken to.

What is a Long-standing Conflict?

Long-standing conflict involves two or more people in dispute or disagreement for a long time that finally culminated in a complaint and an investigation. It involves the people in conflict and various bystanders who are often drawn into the conflict by providing support even though this may involve taking sides, thus escalating the conflict. While many investigations arise resulting from long-standing conflict, some such as theft or sexual assault don’t fit as they aren’t necessarily a build-up of conflict over a period of time.

The Cost of the Long-standing Conflict?

Having a long-standing conflict is costly. Consider the multiple person-hours affected by the conflict including the participants, other team members, HR professionals, unions and senior management and multiply that by their salary plus benefits PLUS the cost of lowered productivity, time off, sick time, and lawyers. Moreover, long-standing conflict often results in the parties engaging in rights-based negotiation (e.g., grievances) which have an outcome but typically do not solve the conflict.  The cost is very high.

Why Aren’t These Conflicts Resolved?

We believe that resolutions prior to an investigation don’t happen because the majority of the parties don’t know how to solve it; otherwise, they would have solved it already! Although it is often portrayed by the various parties as intentional neglect or deliberate hostility, most unresolved conflicts are because those people advising the involved parties, including exempt staff, managers, HR professionals, and union personnel don’t know how to help.

Part of the problem is that people may take a course in conflict resolution but haven’t developed or learned how to implement the skills to be able to navigate and maneuver quickly to solve the conflict, either themselves or to coach another person. Then they are often left alone and are expected to manage a challenging situation.

The Solution: Conflict Resolution Advisors

Creating bespoke solutions for individual workforces teaching evidence-based conflict advising skills to a small group of interested and committed individuals is the answer. These individuals form an internal group of conflict resolution advisors who provide practical advice to (i) people in early conflict before a complaint is formalized and (ii) those managers and HR professionals who typically are consulted about a conflict situation.

Conflict Resolution Advisors act as a neutral resource for everybody across the organization. They operate to preserve the confidentiality of those seeking advice, maintain a neutral/impartial position to the concerns and are independent of formal organizational structures (i.e., they do not share information with administration or unions).

The solution contains three major components:

  1. Learning skills include training of both personal conflict management skills and how to advise others about resolving conflict. The practical skills training would be operationalized using best-practice, evidence-based methods. Onsite, group learning facilitates internal team functioning and offers opportunities for high-quality adult learning experiences including brief didactic sessions, skill-based practise (role play) with feedback, real-world application, and review. Content would include conflict theory, pragmatic tools (e.g., scales, checklists, surveys), case studies, and practice.

Knowing what advice to provide is often a challenging aspect of the advising role. It involves a blend of good emotional intelligence, knowledge of the practicalities of the organization, and an ability to engage the client effectively. Conflict Advisors would learn to utilize various methods of collaboration and problem-solving to develop practical solutions.

  1. Leaving the new Conflict Resolution Advisors on their own after the initial training would be disastrous. They would need regular support to help them build their skills and guidance to help them manage difficult cases and prevent burnout. Ongoing consultation and peer support (i.e., monthly Zoom calls) for the Conflict Resolution Advisors to discuss situations, seek advice from other Advisors, learn new techniques, and receive emotional support would be implemented. In that sense, having a regular Zoom meeting is essential to keep the group moving forward.
  2. A strong evaluation component to prove efficacy and gather data to guide modifications to the Conflict Resolution Advisors pilot project. A cost-effective evaluation would involve both process (to determine strengths and weaknesses) and outcome (determines if goals were achieved) methods.

What are the Benefits?

The benefits include:

  • Resolutions to difficult situations
  • Prevention of costly and disruptive investigations
  • Better buy-in to solutions from those who participate in the process
  • Opportunities to build interest across the entire organization
  • Cost-saving
  • Capacity building for all staff
  • Skill-building for Conflict Resolution Advisors
  • Enhanced career opportunities for advisors

Who Could Be An Advisor?

An effective CRA must have high emotional intelligence, be interested in helping others resolve conflict, and be neutral. Involving individuals with these characteristics (e.g., people with an axe to grind) into the role of a CRA can be harmful to the outcome of the program. As such, each applicant is interviewed to determine fit.

Costs

The cost of this program include:

  1. An interview with each applicant to review their suitability to be a CRA, to explain the process and outline the necessary agreements required of a
  2. A bespoke code of conduct and contractual agreements to enrol each CRA.
  3. A two-day training course using an adult-learning methodology to teach evidence-based conflict advising strategies; includes a written and PDF manual with our team.
  4. Each participant receives a personal Conflict Dynamics Profile report.
  5. 12 monthly online Supervision/Support calls with trainers to support learning and build resiliency in the CRA.
  6. An internal marketing strategy and communication copy for internal distribution.
  7. A 12-month evaluation of the program.
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