Conflict Management Services
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Conflict is natural, inevitable, and part of the workplace dynamics even in the most solid workplaces. People often have different viewpoints about a situation and will try to convince the other person to think as they do. As a result, conflict frequently begins when there are barriers to open communication; when you feel a threat, perceived or real, to your employment status; or when at least one person is prevented from meeting his or her workplace needs. Conflict becomes destructive when it is unmanaged and then it can have a significant negative impact on employee productivity as well as on the success of the organization. The problem isn't that there's conflict—the problem is how we handle it. If we begin to understand the causes and how we respond to conflict, we may be more successful in preventing and managing conflict in the future.
To help you develop or improve the way you deal with conflict, the Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution Office offers problem solving services such as mediation, facilitation, conflict coaching, and training. These services are designed to improve relationships between employees and supervisors and between co-workers, with the intended result of building employee productivity, increase employee satisfaction, and to help improve the campus’ ability to prevent and deal with conflict.
Conflict coaching is an opportunity for staff, whether you are an employee or supervisor, to work with a third party conflict resolution specialist one-on-one to help build competency in conflict management. The coaching session allows you to analyze your conflict in a safe environment to help you identify its source and impact, and allow you to take a closer look at your own role in the workplace dynamic. Through this process, you will be coached on how to have productive interactions that may deescalate emotions and lead to problem solving. All consultations may include some aspect of conflict coaching should the person be open and receptive to adjusting their thinking and approach in order to help create a better working environment.
Mediation is a problem-solving process used to resolve disputes and conflicts. It's an informal, yet structured process guided by trained mediators who serve as impartial third parties. The mediators assist the parties involved hold honest discussions, to feel safe in expressing emotions, and to work through problems in order to reach a resolution. The mediator doesn't take sides or determine who is right or who is wrong in any particular situation. Unlike a judge or arbitrator, the mediator does not decide how the dispute should be resolved for the parties. The parties themselves, with the mediator’s guidance, voluntarily develop mutually acceptable solutions. Any agreement will only contain things that all parties have agreed to. Mediated agreements are generally more successful because they result from a process that allows the parties to create their own solutions.
An employee’s participation in mediation is voluntary and the process is confidential. While mediation gives the parties an opportunity to talk about their issues and feel heard, its focus is the future and how to help improve working relationships and gain confidence in communication skills. There are many situations when mediation is appropriate and beneficial to resolve conflict, including when:
- Poor communication has led to misunderstandings and different expectations;
- Maintaining an ongoing relationship with the other person is important, such as a supervisor and employee relationship or a coworker relationship;
- The parties want to retain control of the outcome;
- There is a need for assistance in communication and sharing of information;
- The parties want to resolve the issues at the lowest-possible level;
- The parties are willing to be candid with each other and negotiate in good faith; or
- The parties want to avoid publicity either within or outside their unit
An employee, supervisor, or manager can request mediation. Prior to scheduling the joint mediation session, a pre-mediation session is scheduled with each employee in the dispute as part of the mediation process. The individual sessions help assess whether the concerns are appropriate for mediation, describe the mediation process, prepare the person for mediation, and provide conflict coaching.
Similar to mediation, facilitation is a problem solving process guided by an impartial third party. The primary difference is that the facilitator is more likely to involve the parties in making decisions about the content, including the development of ground rules and the agenda. Facilitators do not contribute to the substance of the discussion nor do they have decision-making authority. Such meetings often help clarify misunderstandings, work expectations, and helps to improve positive.
Conflict Management Training
Conflict-management training is offered for managers and employees to develop basic concepts, skills, and processes to assist in understanding the sources of conflict, your own response to conflict, and how to communicate with someone who has a different approach so that common ground can be reached. These workshops are offered through UTLearn (requires log in) under the categories of professional development for conflict management, personal development, supervisory skills, and communications. Departmental request for training and education is also provided.
The Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution Office is a resource to staff. Other valuable resources may also address a specific concern and are provided to employees during consultations. Depending on the situation, resources, such as the following have been identified:
- Your department's HR representative
- Work/Life Services & Employment Assistance Program
- Performance Management
- Time Off
- Office for Inclusion and Equity
- Office of Institutional Compliance
- Faculty Ombudsman
- Student Ombudsman
- Staff Ombudsman
- Organization Effectiveness