Journal Entry: New Directions Chapter 9

Chapter 9 in New Directions talks about the idea of mediation in the ‘workplace’, where the manager acts as the 3rd party, and the issues that this change brings.

In the chapter, a model is dissected in which 5 elements are considered for the analysis and application of managerial 3rd party mediation. The dispute scenario (nature, relationships, 3rd party experience & preferences), effectiveness criteria (intent assessment tools like efficiency, effectiveness, participant satisfaction, and fairness), third party role ( the approaches of the manager as mediator: autocrat, arbitrator, mediator, motivator, restructurer), outcomes (the result of the mediation: resolution/impasse, nature of agreement, disputant perceptions), and the organizational context (the state of the organization and the way it affects the conflict: history, culture).

Karambayya, R., & Brett, J. M. (1994). Managerial Third Parties. In J. P. Folger & T. S. Jones (Eds.), New Directions in Mediation: Communication Research and Perspectives (pp. 175-192). Sage Publications, Inc.

Personal Experiential Application:

Dr. Millen asks “Therefore, let’s begin the discussion tomorrow night by considering new metaphors, terms, or general frames that are designed to embrace and foster this transformative view of conflict and its resolution.”

I’ll participate as usual tonight, but I was very intrigued by this metaphor replacement, and had some thoughts I figured I’d share as my chapter journal entry. I feel like training implies that we have to apply mediation as though it were a single key that fits a single lock, and without that training that mediation has no chance to succeed.

I’m finding now, especially after reading chapter 9 on managerial third parties, that many of the aspects of transformative mediation can still exist and be useful and successful even though many of the rules (confidentiality, impartiality, neutral third party, professional emotional distance, etc.) may or may not be present.

I think one really useful metaphor for transformative mediation is ocean surf swimming, in which the mediator acts as a sort of lifeguard. Disputants get in to the turbulent water, go as deep as they feel comfortable with, go in any direction they like, progress at their own pace. There might be sharp shells in the sand underfoot, the waves might be a little bit too active, and there are jellyfish, but anything’s better than sitting out on the blazing sand. It hurts! The lifeguard might have swimming advice, might blow a whistle if things start to become dangerous, calling swimmers to come back in to a safer place. Not everyone knows how to swim in the same way – some people learn naturally, some take classes, and some go on to be Olympic surf swimmers. Some people are deathly afraid of water, and some people don’t mind pools, but are afraid of surf. How would training work with them?

Meanwhile, the activity of swimming can be a competition, but in this case, it’s just exercise, a way to feel better, it’s self-directed, and it only goes until the swimmer is satisfied. Unless the lifeguard suggests otherwise.

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