Last week I attended a training session on Alternative Dispute Resolution. Actually, I wouldn’t call it just a “training session” – it was an education and an opportunity to learn, which is significantly more meaningful than training.
If I had to list the top 5 things I don’t like to do (with respect to the training and the workplace), it would be:
1. Dealing with conflict
2. Not sharing my opinion when I’m pretty sure I either know the answer or think I’m right
4. Small talk
5. Listening to people ask questions which aren’t actually questions, but only a way for them to talk about themselves
So, you can see why it might be both a good and bad thing that I attended this particular session.
Truthfully, there is likely no training or education session out there that will eliminate #4 and #5 of the list – they are part of me – whether it’s flattering or not.
However, I am proud to say that I’ve made progress on the other fronts. Or at least I’ve come to realize the importance of them and why I need to work on developing and accepting these areas.
The session was attended by a people from a range of backgrounds and it was really interesting to see how they approached mediating scenarios, even when given a process and tools. Some were almost paralyzed by the process (too structured) and others decided to wing it. Like they always have. The underlying issue was that dealing with people is hard. It doesn’t matter how black & white the conflict is – once you add people to the mix…it becomes challenging.
I mean negotiating a contract is not the same as mediating a workplace issue between people. Sure there may be procedural issues to blame, but to completely ignore the human element is missing the key element.
As an example, I participated in a scenario in which I and another member were colleagues that were basically sabotaging each other out of frustration and not malice. The “mediator” approach the situation in a very results-oriented manner…probably in the same way that she tackles project planning and timelines…it was efficient, it was direct, it was to the point and it was moving forward. However, in the middle of the discussion and in keeping with my character – I actually admitted fault and apologized to my “colleague”. I wasn’t trying to throw the mediator off, but it seemed very appropriate. My “colleague” acknowledged this and offered his own thoughts. I felt like this was a completely believable and realistic action.
However, the mediator’s reaction completely threw me off. She froze, watched us exchange apologies, and then ignored what just happened and went back to our idea generation list. Even though i was just acting – this completely stunned me. How could you not see what just happened? How could you not just jump all over the progress that was just made…sure we didn’t solve the procedural issue, but the communication lines and respect just opened.
In our debrief I asked the “mediator” about this and she admitted that the situation had completely thrown her off – it seemed very random and she didn’t want to “go there” to the “touchy-feely” area. She wanted to stay on track and focus on the results.
I am not slagging on her. I see this happen often – we forget that we are dealing with people who should be focused on doing their work. But as an employee, it’s really hard to be results-oriented when you have human issues that are getting in the way.
Now I’m far from proposing the cry-on-my shoulder or group hug kind of approach, but ignoring the “touchy-feely” side of issues is a big mistake.
And I’m willing to risk conflict defending that opinion.