Conflict Management Services

Don’t treat the symptoms of conflict, get to the root causes!

Conflict will occur even in the most solid workplaces. People often have different viewpoints or beliefs about a situation and become stuck in their positions. Conflict arises from;

  • Miscommunication
  • Misunderstandings
  • Threats to employment status
  • Unmet needs
  • Broken trust

Conflict becomes destructive when it is unmanaged. Conflict costs employees and organizations substantial amounts of money and time.

Conflict isn’t the problem. The problem is how we manage and resolve the conflict. If we begin to understand its underlying causes and our responses, we will have more successful resolutions. With the right guidance, the effective resolution of conflict can actually strengthen workplace relationships.

Our services are designed to improve relationships, increase productivity, improve satisfaction, save time and resources, and to arm the campus with tools to prevent and deal with conflict effectively.

CMDR Conflict/Communication Coaching

Coaching is an opportunity for staff, whether an employee or supervisor, to work with a third party conflict resolution specialist one-on-one to help build competency in conflict management, communication, management best practices, and/or career development. The coaching session allows you to analyze your conflict/issue 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. We will generate options and work on a game plan to achieve your goals.

CMDR Mediation Models

Overview:

The Process Generally:

  • Informal yet structured process
  • Led by trained mediators who serve as impartial third parties
  • Voluntary
  • Confidential/Private
  • Parties decide substantive issues
  • Promotes honest and open discussions in a safe environment
  • Empowers parties to design solutions

What happens:

  • Focus on the future and how to improve relationships and issues moving forward
  • Express emotions, work through problems, and generate solutions
  • Active listening and respectful, collaborative communication
  • Mediator does not act as a judge, take sides, or determine who is right or wrong
  • Parties are empowered to develop mutually acceptable solutions
  • Agreements are mutual, can be formal or informal, and are limitless in their scope and creativity
  • Mediated agreements statistically have greater adherence because parties create outcomes and have buy-in

When to try it:

  • Poor communication has led to misunderstandings and different expectations
  • Maintaining an ongoing relationship with the other person is important
  • Parties want to retain control of the outcome
  • Need assistance in communication and presentation of information
  • Desire to resolve the issues at the lowest-possible level
  • Willingness to be candid and negotiate in good faith
  • Avoiding publicity either within or outside their unit

Any staff member can request mediation. Prior to scheduling the joint mediation session, a pre-mediation individual session is generally scheduled with each party in the dispute.

Types of Mediation:

Facilitative Model

Facilitative mediation focuses on information, effective communication, and understanding. In facilitative mediation, the mediator guides the process, while the parties control the outcomes. Facilitative mediation starts in a joint session with the option to break into private caucuses if and when necessary. Parties determine the substance (i.e. what matters to them, what they discuss, options presented, and solutions, if any, they choose to implement).

The mediator guides the process through a combination of active and empathetic listening. The mediator asks clarifying and open-ended questions to ensure understanding, reflects back emotions and experiences, summarizes important issues and interests/needs underlying the positions/demands, highlights shared interests, and asks open-ended, reality-testing questions to help parties evaluate their options and proposed solutions. The facilitative mediator avoids giving their advice or an opinion unless a hybrid model was selected.

Quick Points: Voluntary, informal, private/confidential

Goals: Parties feel heard and understood; they craft a plan together to move forward

Party Self-Determination: Medium to High

Directiveness of Mediator: Low

 

Evaluative Model

The CMDR office rarely, if ever, uses evaluative mediation, but it can be considered and utilized on a case-by-case basis.

Evaluative mediation helps parties resolve conflict with guidance from the mediator. In this model, the mediator has substantive knowledge in the area of the dispute and helps assess the strengths and weaknesses of their positions. Parties benefit from a better understanding of what might happen if the mediation fails. The evaluative approach is typically popular when litigation or another formal process is pending. Most often, the parties give their opening remarks in a joint session and then move into private caucus for the remainder of the session.

Quick Points: Voluntary, informal, private/confidential

Goals: Parties evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of their positions to determine next steps and/or settlement

Party Self-Determination: Medium to Low

Directiveness of Mediator: Medium to High

 

Transformative Model

This mediation model goes beyond the effective communication and shared understanding of the facilitative model and delves deeper into party empowerment and recognition. This model focuses on building empathy by learning about the other person’s experience. Participants often come away from a transformative mediation with more self-awareness and a deeper understanding of one another’s perspectives. Transformative mediators take a more secondary role and guide a process that restores relationships with oneself and others. The focus is on the journey of the process itself, not any outcome.

Transformative mediation focuses on two underlying principles (1) empowerment and (2) recognition. Empowerment in this process means both parties have clarity about goals, resources, options, and preferences, so they not only have the skills and tools to resolve their current dispute together but also retain the tools and skills to resolve any dispute/conflict in the future. Parties are empowered when they listen, communicate, analyze, evaluate, and make choices more effectively than they could prior to the session.

Recognition in this process means considering the perspective, views, and experiences of the other party to see them as a human being with their own legitimate situation and concerns. Recognition in this model is something one gives to (rather than gets from) the other party. When achieved, empowerment and recognition can lead to settlement, but in transformative mediation settlement is only a secondary effect.

Quick Points: Voluntary, informal, private/confidential.

Goals: Both parties leave the mediation (1) empowered with better problem-solving and decision-making skills and (2) recognized by the other party in a deeply empathetic way

Party Self-Determination: High

Directiveness of Mediator: Low to None

 

Humanistic Model

Humanistic mediation is much in line with the transformative model, and it brings several additional distinctions that deepen the connection of both the mediator and the parties.

In humanistic mediation, these distinctions include: (1) Party-to-party dialogue where parties use their own inner strengths to better connect with the humanity of each other; (2) Mediator presence where the mediator practices mindfulness; compassion, and self-awareness to hold a peaceful space for the parties; and (3) Preparation meetings where communication is framed through storytelling and uninterrupted sharing during the sessions.

The work of the mediator is primarily in the pre-mediation preparation sessions. Rather than using active listening techniques where ongoing verbal feedback is given, the mediator uses “deep compassionate listening” where nonverbal acknowledgment and silence are prominent and where paraphrasing and summarizing are used sparingly. The mediator is more focused on how they are “being” rather than what they are “doing.”

In humanistic mediation, parties and mediators often share the following beliefs:

  1. All living things are connected.
  2. Humans share a common humanity with one another.
  3. Most people desire to live peacefully with one another.
  4. Stories provide healing power.
  5. Safe spaces allow for full expression of feelings.
  6. All humans can draw on their inner-strengths to grow, assist others, and overcome problems and adversity.
  7. Life energy forces surround us and positive energy can overcome negative energy from conflict and crime.

Quick Points: Voluntary, informal, private/confidential

Goals: Parties dialogue and share their stories in an uninterrupted, safe, and positive space held by the mediator. 

Party Self-Determination: High

Directiveness of Mediator: None

 

Hybrid Models

Examples: (Facilitative + Coaching); (Facilitative + Transformative); (Transformative + Coaching); (Facilitative + Transformative + Coaching); (Transformative + Humanistic); Etc.

Hybrid models combine either (1) elements of two or more mediation models (e.g. facilitative and transformative), and/or (2) communication coaching with a chosen mediation model.

If one or both parties select hybrid mediation with communication coaching, then when communication learning opportunities arise in the session, the mediator temporarily puts on a coach’s hat and highlights areas of negative communication impact, communication breakdowns, and/or examples of effective communication. One or both parties can request to receive coaching during the process. No one will be coached unless they request the service.

Quick Points: Voluntary, informal, private/confidential

Goals:  Any combination from the various models and/or customized communication plans for the relationship at issue.

Party Self-Determination: Medium to High

Directiveness of Mediator: Medium to Low

 

CMDR Facilitation

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 foster positive interactions.

CMDR Customized Training and Training Plans

Conflict-management training is offered for managers and employees to develop basic concepts, skills, and processes to assist in understanding the sources of conflict. We explore the psychobiological effects of conflict, your own response to conflict, and how to communicate with someone who has a different approach. CMDR now offers over 15 hours of online training through Lynda.com organized into three categories: (1) Conflict Management Foundations; (2) Effective Communication and Listening; and (3) Relationship and Team-Building. When groups have completed the foundational online training, then customized role-play and practice training may be requested for your workgroup.

CMDR Restorative Process System

Tier 1: Team and Community Building (Prevention/Relation)

Tier 1 is characterized by the use of effective communication skills and practice (discussion circles) to build relationships, create shared values, guidelines, and goals. Tier 1 promotes restorative conversations following disruptions and/or preemptively addresses difficult issues within communities or work groups. The goal is to build a supportive, intentional, and equitable community with conditions conducive to learning and working. Tier 1 circles can be utilized within work groups, larger departments or portfolios, and across the broader campus community.

Tier 2: Restorative Accountability Processes (Intervention/Repair)

Tier 2 is characterized by the use of non-punitive response to harm and conflict in the form of healing circles, restorative mediation, or group conferencing to respond to issues of harm in a restorative manner. This process addresses the root causes of the harm, includes all impacted parties or representatives of all impacted groups, supports meaningful accountability for the harmer(s), and promotes healing for the harmed parties, the harmer(s), and the larger community.

Tier 3: Re-Entry Support Circles (Individualized/Re-Integrate)

Tier 3 is characterized by support and successful re-entry of employees, students, and/or faculty following injuries, suspension, expulsion, incarceration, and/or extended periods of absences with or without leave. The goal is to welcome members back to the work or school community in a manner that provides structured support and promotes accountability and achievement for that individual to ensure they are a successful and contributing member of their workplace or learning community.

To schedule a consultation appointment:

  • Email Kimberly.sullivan@austin.utexas.edu to request an appointment. Include your phone number and whether a morning or afternoon slot is better for an initial 30-45 minute phone appointment. 
  • Alternate method if email is not available: Call 512-471-6638 and leave a detailed, clear voicemail with your name, EID, email address, phone number, a brief description of your issue, and whether a morning or afternoon slot is better for an initial 30-45 minute phone appointment. If your message is unclear, then we may not be able to contact you.

If you are considering filing a formal grievance, then please reach out as soon as possible to schedule a consultation. With increased requests for services, the office is booking further out for appointments. You must meet with the Dispute Resolution Officer to officially file.

Resources

The Office of Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution is a resource to the entire staff population. Other valuable resources are provided to employees during consultations. Other helpful resources: