Conflict is a phenomenon that is intrinsic in every community. However, civilized societies can resolve disputes with ease and fewer obstacles. Conflict manifest in many ways and varying degrees, and the primary causes of conflicts include the differences in personality values, styles, expectations or goals. When conflicts get to critical stages, a third party is involved in helping resolve the issue. In an organizational context, with conflicting employees, the management becomes that third party that identifies and resolves existing issues, If conflicts are left unsolved, then the quality of work is affected, results to communication ineffectiveness, lawsuits and resignations of the employees. Thus, conflict arises from incompatibilities in an organization or a society and can pose significant challenges and losses to the community. In cases of communal or organizational conflict, an open conflict resolver is in most cases preferred before resulting to formal means of resolution (Kolb and Bartunek, 1992). This paper focuses on the role of an informal third party in resolving the conflict.
Some few years back, i worked in a small school dominated by a specific tribe. During that time there was significant conflict between employees that had formed two groups, with each group having particular claims. The dispute arose after one group felt that some staffs from a specific ethnicity received job promotions and worked fewer hours compared to others. The employees’ conflict had progressed, and none of the groups showed interest in solving the issue. One group was concerned that it would become the minority in the organization. The conflict here is that one party felt that a certain group of individuals was considered more in the school leadership in terms of promotion, payment and inclusiveness in decision making than others. The unequal treatment attracted poor productivity, resentment towards specific individuals and resignations. In analyzing this issue, an informal third party method was involved in solving the varying perspectives that changed the staffs’ behaviors without physical force or invoking the rule of law (Bercovitch and Rubin, 1992).
The third party ( board of directors) followed a structured process aimed at bringing the disputants closer to each other and helped them realize their interests and develop alternatives, that would develop solutions acceptable to both parties. The third party first met with the parties individually to determine each party interest, but not as a representative of any party. The third party, therefore, focused on establishing peace and communication between the two parties, where they would air their concerns and generate reasonable and adaptable solutions. Thus, the third party engages the parties in a reconciliation dialogue to evoke a neutral, impartial, objective and rational solution to the problem identified. More so, the mediator would apply their influence during negotiations to persuade the disputants in yielding a firm stand and focus towards an agreement. The role played was a transformation of the dynamics of the conflicts through introducing new and relevant information, especially regarding the problem-solving process between the conflicting parties, through revealing interests common between the parties and suggesting possible solutions.
Analysis: effect of the third party
Involvement of the third party yielded positive results. The conflicts had rendered one party as unproductive, inability to achieve the organization goals and some contemplated resigning. The ability of the mediator to provide recommendations, opinions and suggestions enhanced agreement between the disputants. The third party addressed disputants’ sources of conflicts, emotions, and relationships which reduced the tension between the parties. The conflicting parties through the third party suggestions developed mutual perceptions regarding the issue which controlled the hostility between them. The ability of the facilitator to focus on the parties’ emotions and relationships enabled the parties to increase productivity and enhance their relationship which reduced the resentment. Addressing the hostility between the two parties with fairness and consideration of their emotions helped the parties to work towards the organization goals other than focusing on their interests. Thus, the process yielded greater involvement in the organization, better relationships between the school workers, and an enhanced public image for the institution and the employees.
The conflicting parties had different perceptions on each other and did not settle on a single solution suggested by the institution management. They also involved a few other petty issues that were emanating from the central conflict. The minority group felt that the negotiations were not enough to solve the differences while the other party was open to any intervention provided to settle the disputes. However, the third party was able to convince the parties to engage in a negotiation to resolve the conflicts before contemplating formal techniques. The group that felt oppressed felt that process would be biased but finally gave in to the negotiations plan with the condition that they would proceed with formal interventions if the process involved biasness and failed to consider equality in decision making.
The third party preferred mediation approach in resolving the conflicts in the institution. Mediation is a conflict management approach where conflicting parties accept an offer from an organization, an individual or a party to influence their behavior, without engaging in physical force or invoking the rule of law. The approach provided an opportunity for the conflicting individuals to negotiate to resolve the misunderstandings and reach a desirable decision for both parties. The method is, therefore, an intervention that facilitates negotiations settlement that is mutually acceptable on the different issues. Through this approach, the third part aimed at establishing peaceful management to ensure institution progress and maintaining the reputation of each and the organization. Thus, the third party initiated the mediation process, where the disputants their consent to participate in the negotiations. When the parties were prepared and agreed on the negotiation, the mediator introduced the parties and demonstrated neutrality and credibility as an assurance of the respect and acceptability of the parties. The third party had to reveal their ability to sustain the interest of the disputants. Parties proceeded to raise their issues, and then engaged in a discussion, to clarification and evaluation of each party position and finally a selection of the most appropriate solution and reaching an agreement acceptable to both parties.
Conflicts in an organization are inevitable and can reduce the reputation of an institution and its productivity. Most of the issues can be solved through informal third parties, which are valuable tools that help an organization solve complex problems faced by the staffs. Third party mediation as illustrated facilitates better relationships among employees in an organization, better public image for an organization and improved problem-solving skills which enhances productivity and teamwork. Informal Third party brings in mutual gains in the negotiation table.
Bartunek, J.M., Kolb, D.M., Lewicki, R.J. (1992) “Bringing Conflict Out From Behind the Scenes”, in Hidden Conflict in Organizations. Bartunek, J.M., Kolb, D.M., (Eds). London: SAGE Publications.
Bercovitch, J. and Rubin, J. 1992. .Mediation in international Relations. London, Macmillan.