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Course 720 - Preventing Workplace Violence

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Techniques for Alternative Dispute Resolution

The following is a short description of some ADR techniques that companies have found useful in dealing with potential workplace violence problems at the very earliest stages.

Ombudsmen. Ombudsmen are individuals who rely on a number of techniques to resolve workplace disputes. These techniques include counseling, mediating, conciliating, and fact-finding. Usually, when an ombudsman receives a complaint, he or she interviews the parties, reviews available information and policies, and offers options to the disputants. Typically, ombudsmen do not impose solutions. The effectiveness of the ombudsman lies in his or her problem-solving ability. Generally, an individual not accepting an option offered by the ombudsman is free to pursue a remedy using another forum for dispute resolution.

Facilitation. Facilitation techniques improve the flow of information in a meeting between parties to a dispute. The term "facilitator" is often used interchangeably with the term "mediator," but a facilitator does not typically become as involved in the substantive issues as does a mediator. The facilitator focuses more on the process involved in resolving a matter. Facilitation is most appropriate when the intensity of the parties' emotions about the issues in dispute are low to moderate, the parties or issues are not extremely polarized, or the parties have enough trust in each other that they can work together to develop a mutually acceptable solution.

Mediation. Mediation uses an impartial and neutral third party who has no decision-making authority. The objective of this intervention is to assist the parties to voluntarily reach an acceptable resolution of issues in dispute. Mediation is useful in highly polarized disputes where the parties have either been unable to initiate a productive dialogue, or in cases where the parties have been talking and have reached a seemingly insurmountable impasse.

A mediator, like a facilitator, makes primarily procedural suggestions regarding how parties can reach agreement. Occasionally, a mediator may suggest some substantive options as a means of encouraging the parties to expand the range of possible resolutions under consideration. A mediator often works with the parties individually to explore acceptable resolution options or to develop proposals that might move the parties closer to resolution.

Interest-Based Problem Solving. Interest-Based Problem Solving is a technique that creates effective solutions while improving the relationship between the parties. The process separates the person from the problem, explores all interests to define issues clearly, brainstorms possibilities and opportunities, and uses some mutually agreed upon standard to reach a solution. It is often used in collective bargaining between labor and management in place of traditional, position-based bargaining. However, as a technique, it can be effectively applied in many contexts where two or more parties are seeking to reach agreement.

Peer Review. Peer Review is a problem solving process in which an employee takes a dispute to a panel of fellow employees and managers for a decision. The decision may or may not be binding on the employee and/ or the employer, depending on the conditions of the particular process. If it is not binding on the employee, he or she would be able to seek relief in traditional forums for dispute resolution if dissatisfied with the decision under peer review. The principal objective of the method is to resolve disputes early before they become formal complaints or grievances.