Information and Tools To Help You Mediate Disputes Like a Professional
Disputes in the workplace are common. It’s easy to fall into dispute over miscommunication, jumbled memories and conflicting memos. That’s when conflict resolution is useful.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the benefits of mediation are:
- It’s fair and neutral
- It saves time and money
- It’s confidential
- It avoids litigation
- It fosters cooperation
- It improves communication
- It allows you to discover the real issues in your workplace
- It lets you design your own solution
But where to begin? If you’re a manager or supervisor, an educator or anyone else who may need to resolve conflicts in the workplace, the following resources can help you learn more about resolving conflicts between parties.
Thinking about becoming a professional mediator? Learn more about becoming a mediator.
Jump ahead to any section:
- Cost of Conflict Calculators
- Conflict Management Self-Assessments
- Communication Skills for Resolving Conflicts
- Conflict Resolution Strategies and Techniques
- Mediation and Conflict Resolution Forms, Templates and Checklists
- Mediation and Conflict Resolution Blogs, Journals and Podcasts
- Conflict and Dispute Resolution Organizations
Cost of Conflict Calculators
Do you know how to find out what the cost of a conflict in your workplace is? These three calculators can help you find out how much time and money are being wasted on conflict at your business.
Center for Creative Leadership: White Paper: Cost of Conflict
How much time do you think your managers are wasting on conflicts? Find out more about the cost of conflicts in this white paper from the Center for Creative Leadership, and try the Cost of Conflict Calculator provided to get your answers. You’ll need to provide some personal information to download the paper and to use the calculator.
Key takeaway: Conflict affects the productivity of organizations in four key areas: wasted time, lower motivation, increased turnover and disruptive restructuring.
Mediation Training Institute: Conflict Cost Calculator
What are the financial costs of conflict in your organization? This Cost Conflict Calculator from the Mediation Training Institute helps determine the monetary costs of conflict. Fill out the form after providing your information, and find out the financial cost to your managers’ productivity.
Key takeaway: Using this Conflict Cost Calculator, you can establish a quantitative assessment, re-measure results after training or coaching, and then compare the results to see how effectively you’re using conflict resolution tools.
Resologics: Cost of Conflict Calculator
This Cost of Conflict Calculator from Resologics requires no personal information to use. Answer questions to gain insight into the cost of conflict at your workplace—there is also an option to receive a full report based on your answers. The results are broken down based on wasted time, wasted opportunity, lost time, lost opportunity, turnover, legal and non-legal support.
Key takeaway: This site lets you sign up for a Conflict Tools mailing list so that you can follow up with your conflict resolution project.
Conflict Management Self-Assessments
How do you manage conflicts in the workplace? How should you? These tools and assessments may help you figure out how you handle conflict and what adjustments you should make for a happy workplace.
Walden University: What’s Your Conflict Management Style?
Find out your own conflict management style with two resources for conflict resolution offered at this site. One link offers an assessment for purchase, and a second link offers a 15-question assessment.
Key takeaway: Walden University lists five major styles of conflict management: collaborating, competing, avoiding, accommodating and compromising.
The Blake Group: Conflict Management Styles Assessment
Are you an owl? A fox? A teddy bear? Take this conflict management style assessment by the Blake Group, and find out where you fall on the scale of styles and what that means for you.
Key takeaway: No one style of conflict management is necessarily better than another. Each management style has its pros and cons, and each can be useful depending on the situation.
Psychologia: What’s Your Conflict Resolution Strategy?
This series of true-false questions measures your conflict resolution strategy. Like other assessments, it places you among five conflict management styles and gives you some insight into why you’re that way. This article includes links to other conflict management tests.
Key takeaway: Realizing you have a predominant conflict resolution style can help you make the right choices when confronting somebody about their behavior.
Cinergy Coaching: Conflict Intelligence Self-Assessment
This article grades you on your conflict intelligence. Conflict intelligence refers to having the self-awareness, knowledge and skills to be attuned to yourself and the other person with whom you are in conflict. This assessment emphasizes insight and compassion when dealing with conflict.
Key takeaway: A number of factors get in the way of developing conflict intelligence. Strengthening your conflict intelligence can help solve disputes and bring peace at work and at home.
South Carolina Women in Higher Education: Conflict Handling Style Scale
This self-assessment of your “Conflict Handling Style” is based on how you rate statements such as “I fought for my own position” and “I gave the other party what it wanted.” Ratings range from “Almost Always” to “Rarely/Never.” Results will tell you your preferred conflict management style.
Key takeaway: You may have a preferred conflict management style, but there are others, and you likely use more than just one.
United States Institute of Peace: Conflict Styles Assessment
How do you respond to conflict? Take this online conflict styles assessment at USIP, and find out if you’re an accommodator, avoider, competer, compromiser or problem solver. The results are shareable and printable.
Key takeaway: Being aware of your own conflict style and being able to identify the style of the person on the other side may help you pursue a mutually agreeable outcome.
Communication Skills for Resolving Conflicts
Conflict can’t be resolved without good communication. If the conflict can’t be accurately identified and if the mediator doesn’t understand the problem, resolution can be elusive. These resources can help develop the communication skills needed to resolve conflicts.
Utah State University: Effective Communication Skills: Resolving Conflicts
This paper on effective communication skills for resolving conflicts from Utah State University sees conflict as opportunities for personal and relationship growth. The key is communication. The paper offers a few tips to begin resolving common conflicts.
Key takeaway: There are four negative communication styles that can make the problem worse, sometimes called the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”: criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.
Move to Amend: Communication Tools & Conflict Resolution
According to Communication Tools & Conflict Resolution by Move to Amend, big corporations are seen as the enemy, but corporations and small businesses alike can take advantage of its unorthodox conflict resolution tools and ideas. For example, Move to Amend recommends using such methods as a “Talking Stick” so only one person at a time can talk as others listen, a timekeeping tool to keep the discussion on track and trust games.
Key takeaway: This group suggests working out interpersonal conflicts by “VOMPing”—venting, owning, empathizing and planning. It’s demonstrated in an example dialogue.
VISTA: Strategies for Managing Conflict & Communication Tools
Volunteers in Service to America, or VISTA, offers a bullet-point list of tips for managing conflict, such as “Be a calming agent” and “Focus on the future.” The common-sense points are helpful. Also offered is a short list of conflict resolution tools focusing on communication.
Key takeaway: An often-forgotten tip is to always validate the feelings of those who are in conflict by saying such things as “I’m sorry this hurt you.”
Beyond Intractability: Communication Tools for Understanding Cultural Differences
One factor that may be driving conflict in an organization is cultural differences. Beyond Intractability’s article, “Communication Tools for Understanding Cultural Differences,” suggests that, in conflict, self-knowledge and self-awareness are needed first—and cultural fluency comes next. That means understanding what culture is, how it works and the ways culture and communication are intertwined with conflict. Tools and tips are provided to begin resolving conflict.
Key takeaway: Two key types of communication are high context (indirect messages) and low context (words or implications from those words). Most people function on both ends of the continuum, and figuring out where the other person is helps begin to resolve conflict.
Mind Tools: Cross-Culture Communication
This resource examines “cross-cultural communication,” which some businesses face if they outsource more work. Because cross-cultural communication is common, understanding cultural diversity is useful when facing conflict. This article suggests several steps: Develop awareness of cultures, demand mutual acceptance, keep communication simple and seek help when it’s needed.
Key takeaway: Team members should contribute and not hinder the mission, and they should not damage the cohesion of the team or harm the interests of other team members.
Community Tool Box: Enhancing Cultural Competence
This outline offers goals for enhancing cultural competence in an organization and a series of steps to get there. Among them are defining your vision and goals and conducting a cultural audit. A long list of additional links offers more conflict resolution resources.
Key takeaway: One helpful exercise is to list cultural groups within the organization and the hurtful stereotypes associated with them that could be hindering communication and the ability to work together.
Harvard Business Review: 3 Situations Where Cross-Cultural Communication Breaks Down
3 Situations Where Cross-Cultural Communication Breaks Down from Harvard Business Review explores how cross-cultural conflict can arise in many ways and identifies three areas that create the biggest challenges: eliciting ideas, surfacing disagreement and giving feedback. Each area has a suggested “fix” shared by the authors.
Key insight: To prevent such conflict, teams should develop a climate of trust where colleagues are always safe to speak their minds.
Conflict Resolution Strategies and Techniques
There are a variety of strategies and techniques for resolving conflicts. This group of sites offers different ideas for conflict resolution, from quizzes and exercises to diagrams and downloads. Explore helpful conflict resolution tools here.
Louisiana State Civil Service: Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies
This is a publicly available manual from a Louisiana training program on conflict resolution strategies. It includes quizzes and exercises to help the participants learn how to resolve conflicts. It may help you learn about the causes and effects of conflict, how to evaluate different conflict management styles and how to focus on applying win-win techniques.
Key takeaway: This resource contends that conflict can be positive, is inevitable and can be skill-based—that is, developing your own skills can lead to the resolution of conflicts.
Harvard Law School: 5 Conflict Resolution Strategies
Check out this list of five conflict resolution strategies from Harvard Law School. Among other points, the reader is urged to recognize that we all have biased perceptions of fairness. Applying these strategies will help move toward resolution.
Key takeaway: We may think of some of our stances as “sacred”—that is, firm and non-negotiable. However, they can prove to be only “pseudo-sacred,” or off-limits only under certain conditions. It’s important to recognize the difference when negotiating.
Harvard Law School: 3 Negotiation Strategies for Conflict Resolution
Harvard follows up with a list of proven negotiation strategies for conflict resolution that can help mend partnerships, avoid lawsuits and even create value. They include: Avoid being provoked into an emotional response, don’t abandon value-creating strategies, use time to your advantage and many more.
Key takeaway: One interesting strategy for defusing a situation is a simple one: Take a break. That will give everyone time to gain control of emotions—and it can help protect you as the mediator from getting caught in the anger of the conflicted parties.
HRPersonality: Conflict Management Techniques
Conflict Management Techniques by HRPersonality offers a rundown of various conflict resolution techniques, examples of when they may be appropriate and possible advantages and disadvantages. Techniques include “forcing” or competing, “win-win” or collaborating, compromising, withdrawing, and “smoothing” or accommodating.
Key takeaway: Most lists detail the advantages of each technique, but this also includes some insightful “caveats,” which are essentially warnings about the shortcomings of each. For example, a “compromise” technique may result in a lose-lose situation where both parties are unsatisfied with the outcome.
The Journal of Conflict Resolution (JSTOR): An Analysis of Conflict Resolution Techniques
This article, available through JSTOR, analyzes various popular problem-solving workshops to move from “pretheories” of conflict resolution to theories and resolution itself. It offers an academic approach and features useful diagrams. The full article is available with a free account through JSTOR, which is a digital library of academic journals, books and primary sources.
Key takeaway: This academic paper casts some doubt on the effectiveness of some of the conflict resolution techniques if only because they are not entirely testable. It’s good to remember that not all techniques will work all of the time.
CISV International: Conflict and Resolution Activities
CISV International has a collection of downloadable activities in conflict resolution for young people. They range from written exercises to videos that help develop goals, and they seem aimed primarily at teachers and school administrators.
Key takeaway: This group of resources for conflict resolution takes conflict out of the workplace and even out of the classroom. It encourages young people to stand up for others’ views and tackles such issues as equal rights and human rights.
Mediation and Conflict Resolution Forms, Templates and Checklists
This section includes tools you can use when you enter conflict resolution and mediation. The following forms, templates and checklists can help you organize your efforts, level the playing field for participants and help evaluate your mediation efforts after the fact.
University of Iowa: Conflict Description Template
This conflict description template can help you categorize conflicts, the steps that have already been taken and the next steps available. This was put together and intended for the University of Iowa, but it can be modified for use by anyone who wants to resolve conflicts peacefully.
Key takeaway: This document has a helpful link to a list of the limits and boundaries of confidentiality for complainants and respondents.
Collaborative Journeys: Mediation Agreement Checklist
This is a checklist to resolve monetary disputes. You can work through such issues as payment disputes and time frames for resolving them. This document indicates that it’s intended to be used as a guide for reaching an agreement through mediation.
Key takeaway: Follow the link at the bottom of the page, and you’ll find more conflict resolution tools and publications for free, including an e-course about collaboration.
United States Department of Veterans Affairs: Sample Introductions for Mediators
This list of sample introductions is for mediators entering a dispute-resolution process. It includes two sample introductions you can use to explain what dispute resolution and mediation are and what the process might look like for both sides.
Key takeaway: This is a useful document to use if you don’t have much experience mediating as it gives you a good framework.
Health Services Advisory Group: Conflict Resolution Meeting Tip Sheet
This conflict resolution meeting tip sheet is helpful for when you’re organizing a meeting to resolve disputes. It lists ground rules to use and offers tips on how to proceed through the logical steps of dispute resolution.
Key takeaway: This document offers a reminder of the goal of any dispute resolution agenda: to transition from a past situation to an amenable future state.
Texas Southern University: Ground Rules for a Successful Mediation Meeting
This bullet point list is a collection of ground rules to use in a dispute resolution meeting. Among the points: Each person should be prepared with some ideas for solutions to the problem and be prepared to make notes and wait your turn to talk.
Key takeaway: One idea that might provide some key insight is to have the disputing sides explain the other person’s point of view, if asked. This could open some minds and provide some new avenues of compromise.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): Sample Alternative Dispute Resolution Forms
The Sample Alternative Dispute Resolution Forms page from the U.S. EEOC provides links to forms that government agencies use to resolve disputes. You’ll find mediation agreements, intake sheets, settlement agreements and evaluation forms after disputes are resolved.
Key takeaway: It’s useful to evaluate the effectiveness of mediation after the fact. The forms provided here can help you improve mediation efforts.
Mediation and Conflict Resolution Blogs, Journals and Podcasts
Here are some helpful blogs, journals and podcasts about mediation and conflict resolution and some of their best resources.
JAMS is a dispute resolution company. Its blog provides some insight into dispute resolution and mediation.
- Ten Tips Toward Client Arbitration Satisfaction: This article covers the 10 things to look out for if you want your client to be satisfied with the results of conflict resolution.
- Nurturing Dispute Resolution Worldwide: As companies do business overseas, an understanding of international arbitration can be helpful.
- Food for Thought: How Food Might Serve You at a Mediation: This article offers a take on how the food served in mediation settings could help get to the bottom of the dispute.
The Indisputably Blog, “Linking Dispute Resolution Scholarship, Education, and Practice,” gathers several reflections of specialists in the field.
- What Do We Know About Best Practices in Mediation?: This article reviews some ideas about best practices in the field and how to find out what is and isn’t beneficial.
- Paul M. Lurie on Guided Mediation: This guide collects some practices and tools in actual use to increase mediation efficiency.
The Disputing Blog gathers news about disputes, arbitration and mediation. It’s based in Austin, Texas, so the articles lean more toward issues in that state.
- Arbitrator Diversity: Can It Be Achieved?: This article is a repost from Washington University Law Review on the various approaches to increasing arbitrator diversity.
- Robot Mediator Settles Court Case for the First Time: This article reviews a case and the growth of artificial intelligence in the use of mediation.
Journal of Conflict Resolution (JCR)
JCR covers international trends and techniques in dispute resolution. You’ll find articles and ideas among its pages. Some articles may require rental or purchase.
- How Social Media Is Changing Conflict: Social media plays a role in politics and in conflict. Here’s how to understand its influence.
- Interpersonal Conflicts in Executive Training: Types, Antecedents and Consequences: This article raises questions about interpersonal conflicts that can occur in leadership training.
- Let’s Look at This Another Way: How Supervisors Can Help Subordinates Manage the Threat of Relationship Conflict: This article examines the role that supervisors play in managing relationship conflict.
American Bar Association: Dispute Resolution Magazine
The Dispute Resolution Magazine from the ABA helps keep readers abreast of issues in dispute resolution and mediation. Current and archived issues are available to read; some content requires membership.
- Religion, Conflict, and Resolution: This article covers issues mediators may face when resolving a dispute that may be based around religious beliefs.
- Where Confidentiality and Transparency Collide: In sexual harassment cases, mediators face a modern day dilemma over confidentiality and transparency.
Resolutions: A Podcast About Dispute Resolution and Prevention (Podcast)
This podcast from the American Bar Association further explores dispute resolution and what can be done to prevent such disputes in the first place.
- A Conversation About Online Dispute Resolution: This episode covers how online dispute resolution has grown over the years and how it’s used by courts in a wide range of matters.
- A Conversation About the Enforcement of Mediation Agreements Across Borders: This episode, which may be beneficial for multinational companies, addresses the difficulties and strategies of enforcing mediated settlement agreements in international disputes.
The Space Between: Conflict Resolution With Dr. Tammy Lenski (Podcast and Blogs)
The Space Between channel created by Dr. Tammy Lenski is about conflict resolution in high-priority relationships at work and home.
- Control Emotions Better by Labeling Them: Mistakes are sometimes made when we want to control emotions better during a difficult conversation. Here are tips on how to avoid incapacitating emotions.
- How To Disagree Better: When you can’t forge an agreement, learn about how to navigate the ways that prevent damage and inspire a deeper consideration of solutions.
Negotiate Anything (Podcast)
Negotiate Anything calls itself the top-ranked negotiation podcast in the world. You’ll hear interviews and tips on how to make difficult conversations easier.
- How To Prepare for Your Negotiations: Learn how to prepare for your next negotiation, and discover elements of the process that people commonly miss.
- How To Deal With Passive Aggressiveness: Passive aggressive behavior can derail negotiations. Here’s how to deal with it when managing conflict.
Conflict and Dispute Resolution Organizations
If you decide to make a career of mediation and dispute resolution, there are a number of organizations that can help guide you.
American Arbitration Association (AAA)
The AAA organization provides a roster of mediators that can help resolve conflict. Its Master Mediator Panel handles large-claim disputes.
Key takeaway: This group of professionals includes judges and leaders in legal and business communities.
National Association for Community Mediation (NACM)
The NACM group supports community mediation to resolve public disputes. Their focus also includes policymaking, legislation, professional programs and other public arenas.
Key takeaways: The organization says it offers “an alternative to avoidance, destructive confrontation, prolonged litigation or violence.”
Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM)
The APFM group bills itself as “the premier organization for divorce and family mediators.”
It supports the work of professional family mediators in difficult situations.
Key takeaway: This group offers training opportunities nationwide and provides links to training you may have missed.
Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR)
The ACR group is a professional association for mediators, arbitrators, educators and other conflict resolution practitioners. The group offers training and support for those who are involved in dispute resolution.
Key takeaway: The group has recently published a book, the first in a planned series, called The Guide to Reflective Practice in Conflict Resolution.
International Mediation Institute (IMI)
The IMI organization supports international mediation. It certifies mediators who meet international standards and accredits others who have international training.
Key takeaway: The International Mediation Institute’s Young Mediators program offers support for young people who are interested in mediation careers.
International Association for Conflict Management (IACM)
The IACM group is for scholars to develop and disseminate theories, research and experience on conflict resolution. Its focus is on family, organizational, societal and international conflict management.
Key takeaway: This site links to its own journal, Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, for academics and researchers.
Interested in a Career in Dispute Resolution?
People who are skilled in conflict management and are able to stay cool and calm under pressure may find success as a dispute resolution professional. An online master’s in legal studies may be a useful way to equip yourself with relevant skills. There are also master’s in dispute resolution programs available. With the right combination of education and experience, you can be more prepared for a career in dispute resolution.
Last updated: April 2021