How well do your staff relate to each other, and how does that affect you?

When employees have good interpersonal exchanges at work they are more productive and become invested in an organisation. This improvement is also reflected in outward facing attitudes, refining service delivery and supporting the organisation’s profile.

Every organisation’s workplace has its own dynamics and most times something interfears with relational harmony, potentially generating inefficiency or even disruption.

The are many causes of disharmony at work, both real and perceived. Things like unfair treatment, undue criticism, emotional abuse, discrimination, harassment, cultural diversity, inappropriate allegations etc.

Getting to the source of this is energy sapping and distracting. Interpersonal friction can be contagious and disruptive, and if left unresolved can pollute the environment. To fix disharmony in the workplace one needs to identify it, and to resolve it.

The ProMediation team has extensive experience in friction and conflict management inside an organisation. After being briefed we engage with employees, in groups or alone. We emphasise that our interactions are in the strictest confidence and that our purpose is to listen. By explaining that our ultimate mission is conflict resolution, we receive voluntary input on issues of friction or disharmony.

Still maintaining confidentiality, we discuss our conclusions at the appropriate management level and submit a confidential report. If required, our follow-up is to engage in mediating the resolution of any harmful conflict.

Resolving workplace friction using transformative mediation

When mediating conflict, transformative mediation focuses both on the parties’ relationship and on the specifics of the dispute. It is used to assist parties to resolve their dispute and to improve or transform their relationship, reducing friction and benefitting the workplace in general.

A closer examination of a disruptive association may reveal that both parties want stability and a good relationship, but their stated positions separate them and damage or disrupt their relationships. In South Africa a common way to deal with this is by disciplinary action, with specific procedures, and engaging the administration as a disputant. This procedure does not go to the cause of the conflict, and therefore cannot resolve it effectively.

Generally, under conflicted parties’ opposed positions lie many more common interests than contradictory ones. By focusing more on the future than on the past, transformative mediation will reveal the existence of more compatible, common interests than contrary ones, and the parties are able to use these to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution, and to mend the damaged relationship.