Resolving conflict together for a common good

Pictured: KCIRO Investigation Manager Steve Zwerin.

King County strives to be a workplace where every employee is supported to thrive and do their best work free from harassment and discrimination, which is why the King County Investigation and Resolution Office (KCIRO) was launched in July 2016 as a pilot program to work with department leaders and employees to help mitigate complaints under the County’s nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policy.

“KCIRO seeks to minimize the disruption to the workplace, help the parties maintain a positive working relationship, and reduce the time, cost, and worry of resolving a complaint,” said Steve Zwerin, Investigation Manager with KCIRO.

In its first year, KCIRO has successfully resolved over 50 cases, while minimizing workflow disruptions and the impact on the workplace environment.

KCIRO’s first step is to conduct an intake interview to assess the situation and find the best option for each case.  KCIRO acts as an impartial fact finder. “KCIRO does not represent the County, the complainant, or the respondent,” Steve said.

After conducting the intake interview, KCIRO chooses the best of three options to develop the most effective outcome in the process for the county, employee and the person(s) named in the complaint.

Mediation allows the parties to resolve an issue with the assistance of a neutral professional. This is a cost-effective method with a high success rate; mediators help resolve issues 80% of the time.

Resolution is another option to help the parties come to an agreement if mediation does not work or the parties opt out of mediation. Resolution is also a great choice to minimize workflow disruptions.

An investigation is what’s needed in order to resolve a serious department issue. “Sometimes there will a hybrid; we’ll do an investigation, and as we go through, it will look like we can better resolve the issue through mediation, coaching or conflict resolution” Steve said.

KCIRO brings a Best-Run Government mindset to its approach by striving to continuously improve and listening to customer feedback.

“We’re helping the County save money by reducing conflict, which means employees are happier, and there is lower turnover. Departments are going to be more successful because they are dealing with conflict more effectively,” Steve said. “We are constantly learning and constantly getting feedback from our customers, whether that’s departments, parties involved in the investigation, or even witnesses.”

The KCIRO is part of Risk Management Services within the Department of Executive Services. Find out more here.