WorkPeace: Prepare to Finish Well

At the end of a successful workplace mediation, the parties are happy, smiling and feeling a great sense of relief.  So much has been resolved.  Some parties are even saying they’re looking forward to having coffee together again!

And then something happens.  Days or weeks later, one of the parties informs the HR manager or supervisor “there’s a problem again, I thought we had this resolved, but it’s happening again.”

It seems the parties’ recollections of the mediation are different, and some of the parties are now challenging the items – often details – agreed to at the mediation.  This is a disappointing turn of events and parties’ emotions run high at the thought of being bound by an agreement they don’t like.

The trick for an HR manager or supervisor who has helped resolve a conflict is to prevent this scenario from happening after your intervention.  Here are a few pointers that you as HR Manager or supervisor can use to help prevent this from happening:

  • At the outset, be sure that all parties agree on a clear statement of the problem(s) to be resolved; allow enough time to hear all of the scenarios or problems that are of concern, to avoid something being missed
  • Also be clear about what the parties want to accomplish; identify the common objectives of the parties in simple language
  • Be sure to brainstorm options without conditions or qualifiers, and without judgment (dissent or criticism), initially
  • Spend time reviewing each option in detail, encourage the parties to imagine how each option would play out in the workplace; in a respectful manner flush out all the advantages and disadvantages of each option
  • Connect each option to the parties’ common objectives; to be useful later, an option must support a common objective
  • Before concluding, spend time with the parties writing down the intended agreement, including concrete examples of how the chosen option or outcome will work, and how the parties involved will be impacted – the more examples the better
  • Arrange a follow-up with the participants to ensure that the agreement is working; this should happen within a few days or a week of the intervention

Remember, resolving a workplace conflict is influenced by the corporate culture, or flavour of the workplace environment. Workplace conflicts are unique as they usually blend personal and corporate concerns and interests.  There’s a lot of room for misunderstanding.  The best way to be sure that all parties finish well is to ensure there is a clear and concrete understanding of the solutions agreed to, along with a timely and meaningful follow-up by the HR manager or supervisor who has been involved.

Susan Smith
Susan Smith

Guest blogger Susan Smith is a Civil Roster mediator who focuses her practice on helping workplaces effectively manage high conflict disputes through coaching and mediation. She also specializes in providing online mediation. Find out more about Susan’s busy Vancouver practice at

Photo by Japheth Mast on Unsplash

WorkPeace: Apple Pie and an Open Heart

What if conflict was viewed as an opportunity to create better relationships, a better workplace?

Maybe this sounds like a story of apple pie and motherhood, but I have seen relationships transformed through mediation. Repeatedly.

The process of working through the mess of conflict can provide insight about ourselves and a deeper understanding and appreciation of the people with whom we work.

Theory U, developed by Otto Scharmer and colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), offers a framework for approaching positive change and a useful way to look at conflict.

According to Theory U, we humans have choices to make about how we move through the world, choices that take us either along a U-shaped path of destruction or a path of co-creating.

These are daily choices.

Of course, most of us never choose to be on the path of destruction, but we get there sometimes because of our habits of thought and action. And the way to get on the path of co-creating is to be mindful and intentional. So, lets look at these paths and the choices we can make in relation to conflict.

The path of destruction begins with denial. This might look like: “Not me. I am fine. Fake news!” From denial, we move to de-sensing and absencing, where we close off and shut down. And then we deceive ourselves and others until we reach destruction. What keeps us on this path of destruction is a closed mind or ignorance, a closed heart or greed, and closed will or fear.  Sound familiar?

In contrast, the path to co-creation begins with seeing, looking at the situation with fresh eyes. This requires curiosity and an open mind. From seeing, we move along the U to sensing, which asks us to be empathic, and brings us to presencing. When we are fully present with the new information and insight about self and other, we can move along the path to trying out new ways of interacting. We might come up with commitments for how we will talk to each other, or make promises to stop doing things that are annoying or hurtful. We exercise our good will towards each other, which enables us to co-create a new chapter of the relationship.

Theory UThe next time you find yourself in a conflict or mediating the conflict of others, try on Theory U as an organizing framework for moving forward in a positive way.

Lead with curiosity to open your mind.

Ask: What can we learn? What new or different information can I take in?  What assumptions am I making?

Flex your compassion muscle.

Allow compassion to eclipse judgment. Step into the “other’s” shoes.

Have the courage to do things differently.

Make an offer. Make a request. Try on a new way of being.

Lori Charvat
Lori Charvat

Guest blogger Lori Charvat is a Civil Roster mediator who focuses on workplace conflict, employee engagement, leadership development and change management. She is a Certified Executive Coach and a Prosci certified change management practitioner. Lori has a busy practice in Vancouver as principal of Sandbox Consulting.




WorkPeace: The Cold Hard Message

Everyone seems to have a story about an email/IM/Tweet/Instagram/Snap they received that set them back on their heels. Some very funny messages are sent with unintended consequences. Social media can be a great tools and have been the catalyst for many changes in the work place. They all have some short comings that make it necessary to use caution in sending a message.

Using them does allow us to get our thoughts to someone very quickly. This may be the problem. We tend not to re-read what we are about to send off and generally we do not stop to think how the message may be received.

What is missing is that we do not have a reliable way of conveying our true intentions (emojis may well convey a false or flippant emotion).

We need to be clear in what we say and how we say it.

This may take a bit more time when you write the message, however it will avoid multiple emails and a lot more time to correct a misinterpreted message.

This is a two-way street  – which means that as a recipient of unclear messages we should err on the side of caution and give the benefit of the doubt to the sender.  You can always ask for clarification of the message to ensure that you have a solid understanding of what is being asked or stated.  This will help you to make a fully informed decision as to whether you can comply with or make a sound response to what has been stated. We need to be just as vigilant in our response, knowing how words can seem cold or harsh in a response.

Here are some quick steps to help avoid conflict in messaging:

  1. Know your intention.
  2. Take a moment to consider the impact
  3. If you are unclear about the message, ask questions

If you are the sender, make sure that your message is clear and non-threatening.

If you are the receiver, make sure you understand what is being stated or asked.  When in doubt, ask for clarification.

This all seems simple, however at the pace of the workplace these days, one needs to be aware that mistakes can happen quickly and we all need to do what we can to prevent conflict whenever possible.

Dan Williams
Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams is a Mediate BC Civil Roster mediator. Based in Kamloops, Dan provides conflict management and mediation to unionized and non-union workplaces, the construction industry, for insurance claims, and more. Find out more at


This post is part of Mediate BC’s WorkPeace series: mediator tips for addressing workplace conflict effectively.