ADR launches Conflict Clinic Online

Conflict ClinicGot conflict in your workplace? The King County Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) recently launched the Conflict Clinic blog to help you work through it. They post weekly tips and tools for shifting destructive conflict into a creative force for stronger relationships and better results.

“Instead of avoiding difficult conversations for fear things will just get worse, or lashing out at others, you can read the blog for practical approaches to engage others in conversations that matter,” said Doug Nathan, a mediator with ADR and a writer and editor for the blog. “And if you have a question about conflict in your workplace, you can ask it through the Conflict Clinic site and look for a reply in an upcoming post.”

With four staff members and 100 volunteer-mediators, the Office of ADR offers face-to-face mediations, trainings, and group facilitations. They developed the blog to extend their reach online and make their content as accessible as possible for employees countywide.

“We have been teaching about conflict issues for a combined total of over 80 years and have useful tips and tools that can help people be more effective in conflict situations,” said Nathan. “We decided to liberate all that content stored in our heads and on our computers and make it available through the Conflict Clinic to King County employees whenever they need it.”

“During 10 years working as a mediator, I’ve learned two things about the Alternative Dispute Resolution field,” said Nathan. “First, it’s a growth industry. Everyday there are new opportunities to help people think and act more effectively in conflict. While we are wired for sociability, we often don’t operate these magnificent brains and mouths effectively during high-stress, high-stakes conversations.”

“The second critical thing I’ve learned about the conflict resolution field is that we don’t really resolve conflict. We work through it. We help people hold difficult conversations and reach agreements to move forward together. We help them learn skills and strategies to stay engaged with each other during the conflict.  The conflict will be there. Our ability to engage with it shapes our results.”

Over the years, the Office of ADR has created innovative approaches to working with conflict. Mediation at King County was first introduced in 1998 to assist labor and management teams with interest-based negotiation skills to improve their results at the negotiation table.

“Since then, our work has expanded to include full menu of conflict management services,” says Ann McBroom, the Director of the program.  “We can help teams discover the root causes of their conflict, and target group discussions to explore and find solutions to the issues that matter.  Individuals can call us to talk through their conflict and figure out the best approach when talking with the others involved.  We work real-time with conflicted groups to help them improve internal dynamics, and also customize training and conflict-resolution processes for groups in King County.”

“Right now we are looking at patterns we have seen in our work throughout the County, and developing resources that will help people work through disagreements earlier and more productively,” said McBroom.  “An example is Conflict Resolution for Supervisors, a two-day intensive training that provides supervisors with skills and processes for helping employees talk about their differences at the earliest possible time.”

And that’s the goal of the Conflict Clinic too—just in time information for employees who want to step up to their challenging conversations and get better results together.