Lessons learned: Dispute resolution is too limiting a term for the work we do

2015-2016 has been filled with challenging work and stimulating experiences.

These are but a few ideas or themes learned from them:

- The scope and depth of culture shift in the workplace is striking. A number of influences (e.g. younger generations and different communication methods) have converged to produce significant alterations or alterations -in-progress to workplace structures, expectations of employment rights and responsibilities, perceptions of performance, beliefs about "being wronged and of wrongdoing." Fresh office designs and meeting styles (how structured, how people participate or behave in them) reflect these developments. Organizations adapting to such shifts in thought while being true to mission and achieving productivity need leadership that can evolve even as it keeps a wise "hand on the tiller and eye on the stars."    

-  There is a sense of speed and heightened creativity in certain industry and workplaces. Somebody has said that ingenuity shows itself more in times of crisis, for example, that the number of inventions and innovations mushrooms during tough economic times. Consistent with that, it appears that there is more and more scientific study and learning being applied to business decision-making.  For example, rising-star intellectual from Harvard Business School, Professor Francesca Gino, (her latest book is, "Sidetracked,") addressed the American Bar Association's Dispute Resolution Section this April to describe some neuropsychology studies that have been put to use in certain companies. One instance is a company with too-high employee turnover, that restructured its orientation or on-boarding process, in light of certain studies, to focus first on new empoyeee needs and interests before teaching new employees about the company. Changing the work environment in that way has notably improved workforce stability - a result that might seem counter-intuitive.

-The work of facilitators, trained in dispute resolution and conflict management, helps people come to terms with rapid changes, need for heightened decision-making, responsive leadership, and of course, differences of opinion that become disputes, grievances, claims. Limiting one's view of a dispute resolver as someone who helps settle already-filed lawsuits is simply too small a view of the resource. Clients looking for various forms of assistance should explore the ways in which a trained facilitator has experience effectively working with clients in different situations. Labels may be misleading and limiting.

- Next up: ask me about studies concerning the important influence of one's sense of fairness.


Jeanne Franklin