Designing the Future of Dispute Resolution Globally

Alternative or appropriate dispute resolution (ADR) has become a big part of the legal and business landscape in the past thirty years.  With the advent of technology and the exponential growth of international commercial transactions, dispute resolution and the legal system will need to continue to evolve and a series of national and international conferences began this spring in Singapore in order to do just that.  On Monday, September 12th, I attended the Global Pound Conference in New York City.  It was a fascinating interactive day where participants had a chance to discuss how to shape the future of dispute resolution and improve access to justice.  I’d like to tell you about the conference and encourage you to attend a future event in your area.

What is the Global Pound Conference?

The International Mediation Institute has kicked off the Global Pound Conference, an ambitious series of one-day events hosted in 36 cities in 26 countries designed to create a dialogue and gather real time information on all forms of civil justice in the context of commercial disputes.  Its goal is to change the culture and methods of resolving conflicts.

[Read more…]

Visions of Vienna: Alternative Resolutions Goes Abroad

Travel abroad—it expands your horizons and perspectives, whether it is for vacation or your profession. You learn about and experience another culture and language, history and geography.  It changes you. You return with some new insight and an appreciation for the bounties we have in the United States of America.

At the end of June I participated as an assessor in the second annual Consensual Dispute Resolution Competition (CDRC), an international mediation competition in Vienna Austria. There were students from diverse fields of study representing universities from Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States who had been selected to compete in Vienna in this mediation competition. Over 50 dispute resolution professionals from 25 different jurisdictions across the world brought their varied experience and expertise as mediators and negotiators themselves.  There were four preliminary rounds, followed by semi-final and final rounds over four days. New confidential facts were added to the case study at each round thereby increasing the challenge for the teams. [Read more…]

Mediation & International Conflicts: Opening Understanding

Newsletter Edition: September 2014

I usually start off my fall newsletters by addressing the inevitable stress of the transitions in families and workplaces as summer vacations come to a close. This year, however, the relaxing summer we leave behind feels tainted by the devastating news filtering in every day from fault lines around the world steeped in unthinkable strife and conflict. Many of us, whose daily worlds often seem to keep us strenuously occupied all on their own, are rightfully feeling pulled toward a more acute awareness of the broader, shared political worlds in which we live. However,  the ways in which we receive information about conflict in the world frequently do not help us think critically. In the information age many of these stories fly at us in a rapid, decontextualized and disorienting pattern.  Attempting to regain some feeling of security and locate ourselves in a world shaken by conflict, and the amorphous threat of its spread, we may end up demonizing other viewpoints, rather than being open to increased understanding.

Mediation & International Conflicts: Opening Understanding

Conflicts do not arise in a vacuum. Often the situation hits the news only when it has already escalated into violence or dangerous brinksmanship. In a reality where the possibilities of peace and violence are constructed strictly around powerful actors wielding coercive force, the specter of violence is answered with more violence, and human lives become abstractions. It is important to recognize that there can be other intervention points.

[Read more…]

Workplace Bullying: Is Mediation the Solution?

Controversies over bullying have smattered headlines in recent years. New awareness has sparked a broad conversation about behaviors in schools, workplaces, and communities that may alienate or cause undue psychological stress to students, co-workers, and community members. Currently a debate is taking place as to whether new laws might address the issue of workplace bullying. Importantly, these public exchanges have stimulated new energy to address bullying, and new creative discourses about how individuals and institutions can respond to bullying.

Mediation is an incredible tool – it must be pretty clear that I believe strongly in its capability to aid in conflict transformation, problem solving, and building more constructive communication environments. However, no matter its proven efficacy, it nevertheless remains important for those in the field to have critical conversations to examine how and when various conflict resolution tools, like mediation, are appropriate to employ.

In an issue of Conflict Resolution Quarterly, Moira Jenkins responded[1] to debates she witnessed at an International Workplace Bullying Conference and a Mediation Conference, regarding the rightful place of mediation in addressing workplace bullying. Her response offers us useful insights into understanding workplace bullying as a question of conflict.

[Read more…]

Dispute Mediation: Mandatory Assignment or Free Choice in Mediator Selection

A mortgage broker, upon learning about the various venues where I mediate asked, “Are you chosen or mandated?” This is an important and brilliant question and I’d like to explain the difference between the two forms of mediator selection and why this is important.

Mandated Dispute Resolution

Many institutions, largely federal government agencies and courts, as well as an increasing number of large corporations, have mandatory dispute resolution systems in place at present.   Two federal statutes, the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996 and the  Alternative Dispute Resolution Act of 1998, both passed by Congress in the Clinton Administration are largely responsible for the growth of federal sector dispute resolution.   Each agency’s program is a little different.  Some rely on the federal shared neutrals program which provides collateral duty mediators from different federal agencies at no charge.   Other agencies have one or more contracts with dispute resolution companies that run national or regional dispute resolution rosters.  In this case the contractor functions like a roster manager and chooses a neutral dispute resolution provider who is the right fit for the case and available.    So while the complainant generally chooses to participate in mediation in many federal programs a mediator is appointed to their case by the roster manager.    [Read more…]

Recognize Hot Spots to Better Manage Conflict

Earlier this month I facilitated an executive management retreat for a large non-profit community health organization. When brainstorming opportunities for improvement one individual stated, “We need a strategy to deal with red alerts when they happen.” Everyone in the room smiled, instantly recognizing what she was referring to.  This was clearly a high performing team, with enough self-knowledge to recognize their hot buttons and enough courage and openness to share them with their colleagues.

What are hot spots or red alerts?

Hot spots or triggers are very individualized.  What sets off one person may not even register on the radar for another.  [Read more…]

Managing Conflict in the Telework Environment

One night last week I gave a guest lecture on conflict management and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for a graduate organizational development class, Managing People and Groups in the Global Workplace,  for University of Maryland University College.   The professor invited me to share information about workplace conflict resolution because these students will eventually be leaders and have to know about resources for conflict management.

I  reviewed the history and development of ADR in the federal and private sectors.  We talked about conflict management strategies and the basic conflict management skills of listening, negotiation, investigation and reframing.  One class member asked the following question:  “With the increase in tele-work and the growth of organizations which include offices around the globe how does that impact conflict resolution in the workplace?”

With the growth of tele-working and remote workplaces there is less direct face-to-face communication between people.   This means that the body language component of human communication, which is 55% and the tone of voice component, which is 38% are largely missing.  Written communication must be crystal clear in these types of workplaces.  It is also vital that managers set clear expectations when communication is unclear and conflict and misunderstanding percolates in the organization.  [Read more…]