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In putting systems in place towards becoming a mediating organisation, it is important for the organisation to take cognizance of the three primary approaches to resolving workplace conflict and decide on which one it will like to be employed in its context.

The first is the power based approach where people in conflict try to win the other by using their strength and position to prevail over the objections of the opponents at the workplace.

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The second is the right based approach in resolving a conflict. This approach is usually taken by parties who believe they have all moral and legal rights to contest their stand in a conflicting situation and hence try to win by taking a legal position and appealing to legal and moral authorities for justification.

The third is the interest based approach, where a party tries to satisfy his/her interest by reconciling them with the interest of the perceived opponent.

The first two approaches are adversarial in nature and always create a win- loss, where someone always loses the power or right of contest. These two do not foster a healthy working environment as the losing party will always look for an opportunity to square his/her difference. Therefore, the interest based approach is the best for setting up organisational conflict resolution systems as it encapsulates not only the individual disputing parties’ interest but also that of the organisation will be considered when workers are in conflict.

This calls for conflict management systems to be set up to maximise interest-based management of differences and minimise rights- and power-based dispute resolution.

An executive mediation strategy is preferable in the case of establishing a mediating organisation. This is an evolution of strategic management of organisational conflict which is intentionally planned over a period, being conscious of the effect of conflict on the organisations Return on Investment. It is an organisational wide conflict resolution mechanism put in place to prevent and or resolve workplace conflict, violence, retaliatory lawsuit and frivolous whistle blowing.

It must be systematic with the entire organisation infused with the spirit of internally resolving their differences and must encapsulate the three dimensions of managing organisational conflict [workers competencies, structure and culture].

Criteria for an Effective Conflict Management Strategy

In selecting a conflict management strategy for any organisation, you must note that the strategy must be:

  • Measurable, quantifying results. How to know if it’s working.
  • An organization-wide Conflict management competency built in to enable every worker to resolve disputes early. It must not rely solely on the formal dispute resolution system.
  • Applicable. The applicability of competencies must be guaranteed to ensure that skills gained through training can be used on the job and must be
  • An interest-based formal system that minimises rights and power-based resolution methods (arbitration) since it is being set up for people in a social relationship.

Three Dimensions of Every Organization for moving Toward Strategic Management of Organizational Conflict

There are three dimensions of every organisation where the embedded conflict management strategy can be influenced.

The first dimension is the conflict management Competencies in the organisation. This includes skills needed in managing conflict at various levels in the organisation. The skills needed for an organisation wide conflict management range from:

  • Managerial Mediation ~ core management competency for resolving disputes between workers at departmental level.
  • Self-Mediation ~ core workplace competency for every worker for managing individual or interpersonal dispute without the interference of a third party.
  • Other conflict management skills and tools.

These skills or competencies could either be lacking or advanced, and it is imperative that in a case where it is lacking, training and development of these skills must be embarked on to enable the entire workforce in the management of organisational conflict.

The second dimension is the structure of the organisation. The organisational structure is an integral part in the prevention and management of conflict. These structures can be a help or a blockade to core competencies within the organisation.

For an effective prevention and management of conflict, organisation chart and reporting relationships must not be skewed but must be done in a manner where clarity is ensured; job descriptions must be clearly spelt out to confirm reporting relationships and solid performance management systems put in place. Official channels of communication-based on the organisational chart should be established making no room for bypass of authorities by any worker. Also, specific time controls must be ensured for productivity and quality of work timing. Other written rules or anything that is of importance to the organisation such as Human Resource policies, principles for Labour Management Cooperation, Ghost principles for conversation or any other that workers and management are expected to abide by should be put in place.

The third dimension is the culture of the organisation. The organisational culture includes norms, shared values, and attitudes that influence workplace conflict behaviour. It could be either an adversarial or non-adversarial attitudes and can be an engaged or disengaged behaviour.

It is only by coordinating planned change in all three dimension that organisations can create a more efficient conflict management strategy which produces a Mediating Organisation.