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Mediation can help create an equitable workplace

Commentary://Louise Phipps Senft//November 9, 2020

Mediation can help create an equitable workplace

By Commentary:

//Louise Phipps Senft

//November 9, 2020

senft-louise-phipps-col-sigTraditionally, when analyzing risk management and its role within HR, areas of consideration generally include hiring practices, new employee onboarding, employee exit policies, employee management, and occupational health and safety. Analyzing these areas through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion has been increasingly important for businesses, especially in the last decade.

Today’s polarizing, political landscape and the global uprising against racial injustice is filtering into the workplace, so it is imperative that company leaders consider how they create a space to foster and facilitate open dialogue that provides everyone an opportunity for their voice to be heard.

There is a seismic shift happening in workplace culture. Employees no longer are creating separate personal and professional personas. Companies want employees to bring their whole selves to work, respecting that individual experiences can provide new perspectives and approaches that can foster business growth.

Conversations that were once taboo in professional settings are becoming the norm. But these conversations, if not facilitated properly, can cause divisiveness and detrimental harm to employees and the workplace culture.

While many businesses are providing implicit bias training and implementing new operational policies to build a more inclusive and equitable workplace, these changes can be met with resistance and prevent the company from realizing the intended outcomes.

When fostering cultural change, companies need to meet employees where they are. Change can’t be jammed down the throats of employees from the top down. Conflict usually arises when discussing diversity in the workplace because the framing around the issues is usually divisive unto itself.

When creating a shift in workplace culture, business leaders must consider that employees have varied experiences and perspectives.

Conflict transformation, or transformative mediation training, is grounded in relational conflict theory, which believes in an inherent capacity of individuals to embrace differences, aware of the blind spots that each person has by way of his/her personality and life experience.


A different approach

Transformative mediation is very different from problem solving mediation. Transformative mediation is focused on the quality of the interaction itself not on getting a problem solved. The natural byproducts are problem solving, greater understanding, and agreements, if appropriate, but these are not the goals.

It is a radically different yet timeless approach for greater understanding and peace keeping.

A Relational Approach is premised on a value system that what people want most of all in their conflicts is to change the quality of their interaction.  The approach believes that no person wants to be a victim or a victimizer. The Relational skillset aims to work with emotion and provide the opportunity for people to be restored to a sense of personal strength and greater responsiveness to others. People then become more curious, allowing conversation to open and unfold.

Mediation training provides the skills needed to foster respectful dialogue so that all voices are heard and valued. As businesses create a more holistic, comprehensive approach to diversity, equity and inclusion, all department leaders, and employees of all levels should be professionally trained in transformative mediation. Conflict transformation skills training is critical for those businesses that want to foster workplace shifts that are immediate and long-term. Difficult dialogue and dicey interactions are laced with fear and uncertainty, hostility and confusion – all fuel for the transformative approach to take root and change from within.

When businesses are able to facilitate authentic agreements among its employees without forced settlement, people will be more apt to accept the changes without sacrificing their personal values.

Louise Phipps Senft is a nationally recognized mediator, attorney and best-selling author of “Being Relational: The Seven Ways to Quality Interaction and Lasting Change.” She is also founder of Baltimore Mediation.  She can be reached at [email protected].


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