Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Conflict Coaching in Organizations

Organizational conflict coaching: Informal, independent, neutral conflict management and dispute resolution

“The Organizational Ombudsman is like a smoke-watcher, if we see signs of smoke we will investigate and, if there is a fire we will make recommendations on putting it out and preventing future fires in that area. No one expects fire, but if it does occur we need a trained eye to direct us to the source, quickly, expertly and safely”.
Dr David Miller. Organizational Ombudsman, The Global Fund. Geneva.
Conflict Coaching in Organizations

Introduction to Conflict Coaching in Organizations

We all deserve a positive work environment, a place where we can enjoy our work for a job well done. When handled constructively, conflict is a normal and useful part of life. In fact, conflict can be good for business and can increase innovation. However, if left unresolved people may not feel their workplace is positive. It will lead to low morale and you may even notice that productivity is lost. In extreme cases, people may have health problems associated with conflict. This is especially true in the case of workplace bullying.
Many organisations have a formal conflict management system in place, encouraging staff to use the process if they get into workplace conflict. As with many formal processes, staff can be reluctant to engage due to fear of  retaliation, loss of relationships or other consequences.
The work of the Organizational Ombudsman as a conflict coach  is a complementary addition to an existing formal system. The informal nature of the conflict coach fosters conflict management and resolution of disputes quickly whilst reducing the cost of conflict both in dollar terms and human cost. Conflict coaching can help parties manage conflict escalation and resolve conflict.

What situations at work could I sort out with coaching?

  • My supervisor is grumpy with me all the time. I don’t understand why.
  • The foreman seems to have favourites and I’m not one of them.
  • The person I work with goes too slow and ignores my plea to work harder.
  •  I think I’m being treated differently than other people because I’m from another country.
  • I’m feeling bullied by the others. There is so much gossip where I work.

What does workplace conflict coaching offer?

  •  Strengthen your ability and confidence to take steps to resolve issues.
  • Assist with negotiations between people
  • Listen and help you develop options to address issues and assess the consequences of these options.
  • Provide information and clarification on company procedures and practices.
  •  Identify other avenues of help outside the workplace.
  •  Give the organization valuable insight into the issues facing staff so they can address systemic problems. (via anonymous reporting with consent)

What is a typical workplace coaching session?

In well-resourced organizations, the office of the Ombudsman is available for personal visits and contact by phone. For example, in New Zealand where the use of conflict coaching is new, enlightened organizations offer a limited service relaying on set days when the coach will be on site. In this situation, the coach offers to be available by phone on other days and will agree to meet with staff privately away from the workplace. They might also be available through video conference in email, such as within Online Dispute Resolution.

Conversations between coach and client are a one-to-one process so the client can increase competence and confidence to manage their interpersonal conflict and dispute. It is a future-oriented and voluntary process that focuses on the client’s conflict management goals. Conflict coaching is not counseling or therapy. The coach will not provide advice or act as your agent, representative or lawyer. Usually there will be several sessions, the first used to reach agreement about the boundaries of coaching and the client.

Primary role and responsibilities of the coach include:

a)      Help the client identify conflict management goals and steps required to reach them.
b)     Co-create a relationship that supports and facilitates the client’s efforts to reach their goals.
c)     Assist the client, manage or resolve a dispute or prevent one from escalating unnecessarily.
d)     Help the client strengthen their knowledge, skills and abilities to engage more effectively in conflict.
e)     Manage the coaching process through a step-by-step process where appropriate.

The client agrees to:

a)      Communicate honestly with the coach.
b)     Be willing to co-create the relationship and identify the best way to collaborate to ensure progress.
c)     Be open to the coach’s observation and input.
d)     Provide feedback to the coach on their experience of the coaching process and the working relationship.
e)     Be accountable for doing the work required to reach their goals.
f)      Be solely responsible for their decisions and actions regarding their goals.

The coach will maintain complete confidentiality about the content of the coaching sessions unless:

a)      Disclosure of the information is authorized by the client in writing.
b)     The client reveals intent to harm others or themselves.
c)     The information is required on an anonymous basis for educational or statistical purposes (no identifiable names and information are used).
d)     Required by applicable laws.

About the Author - Conflict Coaching in Organizations

Wayne Marriott.Conflict coach; Mediator and Conciliator. Wayne is based in New Zealand. He offers services face to face in New Zealand and by phone everywhere.

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