Saturday, October 21, 2006

Focus on Protection: The Fourth Measure of Justice in a Conflict Management System

Often I have heard from employees and even managers that the conflict management system looks fine on paper, but they do not feel comfortable using it. "It will hurt my career. It will make me look like a whiner. It will cast me in the role of trouble maker. If I get involved in this, I will be fired." These are common responses by employees and line managers in crisis who need access to an effective conflict management system.

Conflict will go unaddressed unless employees are protected by the system. The Protection Focus rates the degree to which actors feel safe to raise issues. A workplace participant who fears retaliation will avoid participation in conflict resolution. Similar to the Applicability Focus, there must be evidence of protection from retaliation for open dialogue to occur. This is especially true for performance-paid employees. Since the employer is in charge of performance evaluation, assignment of work and promotions, employees are vulnerable to subtle reprisals from management actors. The fairness system must discourage retaliation from other workplace participants, especially those in positions of authority.

One way to discourage reprisals is to concentrate on interest-based options. This has the advantage of engaging the participants and sharing the victory. The less litigious the fairness system is, the less likely it will give rise to retaliation. Participants need sufficient buy-in to trust the other actors and the system’s results.

Another way the system can minimize retaliation is by protecting participant confidentiality. In many cases this may be difficult. Nevertheless, a high score on the Protection Focus will depend upon the care to which the system guards the confidentiality of its participants.

Finally, the system should discourage parties from taking the law into their own hands. The conflict management system must impose consequences on those who retaliate, and reward those who cooperate by meeting their interests.

4 comments:

Kristina Haymes said...

Blaine,
Congrats on the new blog and the new book. Impressive. I look forward to reading it and providing a review at my blog www.mediationmarketingtips.com/blog.
My best. Cheers. Kristina Haymes, JD

Blaine Donais said...

Thank you so much Kristina! I look forward to reading the review.

Dina Lynch, ADRPracticeBuilder.com said...

Blaine,

So right you are. Trust is one of the key factors that enable a conflict managment system to flourish in an organization.

Trouble is, it's hard to cultivate between and among business citizens. That's why I stress a high level of transparency while building a system and communicating about it to the organization.

It was a pleasure to meet you and I look forward eagerly to your next book!

Best, Dina

Dina Beach Lynch
ADRPracticebuilder.com">

Blaine Donais said...

Thanks so much Dina...

It was a real pleausre meeting you as well. I stress transparency in the analysis and design of conflict management systems. Even more so, I stress participation. A system will not rate as strong on the Engagement Quotient without significant participation from all stakeholders.