So you have finally reached an agreement to that long outstanding conflict in the workplace. The agreement requires a number of actions upon the employees involved in the work group and also requires that the manager take a diversity training course. Most of the actions are fulfilled within the first couple of weeks, but this item remains outstanding for months. The manager complains of a lack of time and available resources to get the training done and all the other work that is required. How does this reflect upon the strength of your conflict management system? And what happens when a conflict is resolved upon a certain understanding and then one of the parties does not live up to it? The answer to this is rather simple. An agreement to end a conflict is like a contract. When one or both of the parties refuses to live up to the terms of the contract, and there is no way to compel the person to do so, it creates cynicism in the process, and bitterness between the parties in conflict. Further conflict will arise, not just about the substance of the original conflict, but now about this lack of enforcement. Others will get involved in this new conflict. And in fact the system itself will be called into question by the participants.
No conflict management system will be considered “just” by participants unless the agreements and decisions arising out the system’s operation are enforced in a direct and timely manner. Often one of the fatal flaws of a system is that it fails to enforce agreements. This leads to lack of confidence in the system’s fairness to individuals who have invested their trust in the results of the system’s use. The Enforcement Focus measures the systems in place to ensure that agreements and decisions are enforced.