201 Carter Drive, Suite 100
West Chester, PA 19383
The simple truth of the matter is that none of us can be truly successful in our work lives without the cooperation of others. How we play with others in the sandbox is just as important as how many sand castles we built in it. This is a pretty simple reality that can sometimes be very difficult to keep real.
Why is that? We generally spend more time with our coworkers than we do our families. The more time we spend with each other, the more opportunity we have to get on each other’s nerves. Then there is everything that happens around our work relationships. Driving on Chester County roads to get in here can feel a lot like short track racing. We’re also presented with mandates for change almost daily. And change is rarely viewed as pleasant unless it is only happening to others. What’s happening in our lives outside of work can also have a big impact on us while we’re at work. The world around us also affects us – and today, we live in a world of increasing uncertainty. Uncertainty does bad things to people. Throw in the Phillies losing yet again, a hunt for the last parking place in the lot, one of those rush hour rainstorms we call “drowners” back in Virginia, and finding out a couple of coworkers are out for the day, and we’re just about at the tipping point even before we start work. Any of us can begin our workday about one bad phone call, one misinterpreted e-mail, one misperceived comment, or one unintended slight way from saying or doing something that can damage a valued critical relationship with a coworker. Frankly, it’s not all that hard to do or say harmful things to each other, absent intent, and sometimes without even recognizing it, that can set us on a course of interpersonal conflict.
This University has grievance processes as well as a number of local conduct policies, all of which are pretty poorly suited for managing inter-personal conflict among coworkers, supervisors and subordinates, or inter-group conflict. Self-help, initiating a hard conversation with the other party, is an optimal strategy for managing this type of conflict. But there are times when it is not possible. Sometimes a power differential is the obstacle. Sometimes the wounds have festered or too long. The conflict has already turned the corner to combat.
Mediation is an informal yet structured, time and expense-saving means of assisting disputing parties while they work through their problems, helping the parties hear each other objectively, while allowing them to shape their own solution through identification of new and better ways of relating to each other. Mediation is not a good fit, however, for disagreements relating to discipline, labor contract violations, acts of sexual harassment or discrimination, or performance concerns.
The University, with the unwavering support of the President, has developed an internal mediation program to assist employees and work groups in managing destructive and debilitating conflict. This service was developed as a collaborative project by the Office of Human Resources and the Office of Social Equity. Trained mediators are available to assist you. To learn more about the mediation alternative, please check out the Mediation web page on the Office of Human Resources website.
“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” - William James. “Before you speak, ask yourself; is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” - Shirdi Sai Baba. “Assumptions are the termites of relationships.” - Henry Winkler. “It is astonishing how elements which seem insoluble become soluble when someone listens. How confusions which seem irremediable turn into relatively clear flowing streams when one is heard.” - Carl Rogers. “Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble.” - Frank Tyger.