A mediative approach in organizations. Personal transformation and development in disputes

Seminar Paper, 2016

33 Pages


Table of Contents

List of Figures

1. Introduction

2. Basics about Conflicts
2.1. Terminology and Types
2.2. Perceptions in Organizations
2.3. Functions of Conflicts
2.4. Conflict Management

3. Mediation
3.1. Basic Principles
3.2. Main Types
3.3. Organizational Relevance
3.4. Conflict Interaction

4. Approaches of Implementation
4.1. Assertive Conflict-Solving
4.2. Empathy and Assertiveness in Conflicts
4.3. Creating Value through Conflicts
4.4. Time-optimized Conflict Clarification

5. Organizational Development
5.1. Change and Transformative Approach
5.2. Employee Transformation
5.3. Prospects for Organizations

6. Conclusion and Outlook


List of Figures

Figure 1: Life Cycle Conflict Management

Figure 2: Mediation Process

Figure 3: Changing Conflict Interaction

Figure 4: Value Triad

Figure 5: Basic Requirements in Conflict Solution

Figure 6: Change Management Process

Figure 7: Transformation Support

1. Introduction

Transformation was and is omnipresent in business and social life: In the 1940s Polanyi called it Great Transformation, in the 1990s Malik named it Transformation21 which means a process characterized by “exponential increasing complexity”, “appearance of global cross-linked system” and “dynamic of self-accelerating change”.1

Change in organizations is not only a short-term exception in business. Meanwhile it is a continuous proceeding and became normality in most companies. That means a challenge for the organizational development as well as for employees: Familiar habits and processes, routines and well-known tasks have to be reviewed and new requirements as well as willingness to change are demanded from the staff in all kind of change processes.2 Restructuring, transformations and other change processes are in many cases catalysts for conflicts.

In organizations different trouble spots occur because unexpressed or opposed expectations produce misunderstandings in the daily business. In addition to that uncertainties and ambiguities concerning responsibilities, internal processes, strategies or company rules promote potential disagreements or disputes between business units, departments or colleagues.3 In some circumstances conflicts are unavoidable, the point is how organizations deal with: Do people see conflicts exclusively in a negative way or as a dynamic element in the environment and therefore as a development opportunity for themselves and for their surroundings in general. Therefore a professional and institutionalized internal conflict management is a requirement.

This text in hand describes in a scientific way how conflicts occur in organizations and how a mediative approach - especially a transformative one - creates opportunities for implementing conflict-solving instruments. This study considers the resultant challenges of organizational changes and how a corporate conflict management can support the personal transformation of employees by empowering and developing their individual skills. In addition to that exemplary implementation tools are analyzed and the connection with organizational development is considered. “(…) Most concepts existing in practice assume that people can be developed for a particular system and externally.”4 This study takes the opposite assumption: Sustainable change can only come from the person himself and by a transformative approach.

2. Basics about Conflicts

2.1. Terminology and Types

Social conflicts are interactions between at least two players in which differences concerning emotions, thinking and perception occur one below the other and where the experience of at least one involved person is affected by the other.5 A disagreement cannot be equated with a conflict. Not before one conflict party considers a dissent as a disturbance. Thereby the individual and subjective perception is crucial. Selective perception, overoptimistic assessment, loss aversion or reactive devaluation are some possible bias in conflicts which clarifies the personal point of view.6 Schmookler claims that conflict parties often think that conflicts are caused by the misbehavior of the opposing party. The result can be a violent behavior.7 This connection describes a danger for interpersonal relationship and can result in an internal escalation or a vicious circle.

There are a lot of varied definitions and classifications of conflicts in literature. Exemplary, based on Glasl conflicts can be classified into three different types concerning

- matter in dispute
- form of appearance
- characteristics of conflict parties

The matter in dispute means the reason of a conflict which triggers the involved parties in arguing with each other. This cause can be known or unconscious. In what way conflicts develop is called form of appearance. Concerning the characteristics of conflict parties literature differentiate between conflicts with individuals, teams, organizations or systems, in teams or between teams, etc.8 In connection with organizational conflicts, one can distinguish these types:

- conflicts between departments
- hierarchy conflicts
- change conflicts
- norm conflicts
- structural conflicts

All these kinds of conflicts refer to different groups and hierarchies in organizations: whole teams, individual employees, managers, etc.9

2.2. Perceptions in Organizations

In companies conflicts are often seen as disturbing factors concerning the daily business: The organization structure in companies and the process organization are effected in a negative way by conflicts because disputes are not provided in the structure and slow, delay or interrupt defined internal working processes. Based on that, conflicts are risks concerning the stability and reliability in a company. Therefore a conflict means for all involved persons, managers and employees, a loss of (assumed) projectable safety within their familiar working environment.10 Organizations are seen as machines. In their hierarchic structure a smooth production flow has to be ensured.11

Conflicts often appear in connection with competitive goals between departments (marketing vs. sales, logistics vs. production). Furthermore conflicts waste time because people keep busy with caring about and conflicts reduce involvement because employees become de-motivated. In general, disputes tend to escalation and many conflict management tools used to increase the level of escalation12: Conflict-solving instruments often pose a threat by giving the parties a feeling of helplessness. The crucial point in this context is to develop future- oriented conflict-solving tools.13 Not the conflict by itself is the real issue but the willingness of employees how they engage themselves with the conflict and the beginning downward spiral.14

Management models15 differentiate between dimensions which are all influencing the system (in this context mainly organizations) to be managed. Simplified, organizations are controlled by and dependent on their surrounding spheres (social, ecological, technological, economical), stakeholders (customers, employees, investors, suppliers, competitors, government, public) and their internal level (structure, strategy and culture, processes, organizational development).16 All these factors represent potential points of friction and can lead to conflict. How employees and management deal with conflicts is a question of culture. Doppler and Lauterburg define the ability to handle conflicts as one of five key factors of corporate culture: “An atmosphere of constructive debate becomes a factor of success.”17. “And how a multitude of implicit as well as explicit norms influence the behavior of both the conflict parties and the respective intermediaries”18 must be considered.

Within the scope of more complexity, volatility and uncertainness due to external sphere, the internal level in organizations is more and more affected in the same way: structures in organizations become more and more complex, different generations and modes of working must be reconciled. In many cases disputes are noticed in organizations if they are in a high escalated level and external help is needed.19 A long-term conflict prevention should be developed to counter them.

If conflicts are seen in a systemic way20 “the focus is not on the search for the cause of problem behavior but development-oriented appreciated for hidden useful skills”21. This so-called systemic intervention is an approach to find teambuilding skills and create a common understanding for implementing.22

2.3. Functions of Conflicts

The system theory perspective shows the ambivalent functions of conflicts: On the one hand conflicts often affect good working processes and routines but on the other hand conflicts start thereby transformation and change processes. Therefore conflicts show that something must happen and represent a kind of alarm function.23 In other words, conflicts uncover issues in organizations and show the need for action. Disputes strengthen the cohesiveness and relationship between employees by building trust.24 De Bono postulated a positive and resource-oriented approach which sees conflicts among other things as a chance for enhancement, change and creativity.25 In connection with a recognition-shift26, conflicts can become a source of energy and insight, parties see a deep-rooted sense in conflicts.27

2.4. Conflict Management

“The most important task of a manager is to get people to work together in the best possible way”28. A professional conflict management can support managers to do that. In general, there are two different ways to manage conflicts in organizations: the active conflict resolution or the passive one. While the last is more or less a strategy to deny, ignore or delegate conflicts the former concentrates on a sustainable solution. The active conflict management in organizations is divided into four possible actions: disruptive, factual, personal and integrative:

Disruptive methods mean to separate the conflict parties e.g. by relocation or sign off employees. The risk of such proceeding can be that differences are not disposed of once and for all, quite contrary to, the conflict potential can increase especially if there exists a structural conflict29. Factual activities are independent of people: Rules, processes or assignments are defined to manage the teamwork and to de-escalate conflicting situations. Individual discussions, appraisal interviews or special coaching are used with personal actions. Working with the conflict is focused during an integrative process to enable interaction between the opposing parties and find back to a face-to-face communication. One of the key benefits is the generation of solidarity within teams, a new way of talking and cultural aspects in daily contact.30

Irrespective of a special conflict-solving tool it is helpful to take a look at the abstract life cycle of conflict management:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Life Cycle of Conflict Management31

In general it starts with the phase of orientation in which all involved parties become prepared: This preparation is related that all parties agree in a moderated conflict solving process and that they define certain rules in communication and contact. Secondly, they have to arrange about the used method and conflict handling. In the final phase of consolidation, results and solutions have to be deepen and stabilized between the parties.32

In organizations this process can be used to institutionalize a permanent conflict management process: corporate guidelines can ensure manners of communication, an employment agreement can fix the proceeding and a permanent tracking of the applied procedure and success can intensify the implementation. Which tools can be used and what experiences and advantages can be considered for a professional conflict management in enterprises is illustrated in the next chapters.

3. Mediation

3.1. Basic Principles

“Mediation is defined as a process in which a third party works with parties in conflict to help them change the quality of their conflict action from negative and destructive to positive and constructive, as they explore and discuss issues and possibilities for resolution.”33 The third party - also called mediator - has manifold scopes of duties: he is a negotiation counselor, a moderator, a de-escalation manager and in the first instance he is responsible for managing the whole proceeding during a mediation as a process owner. Based on the method of Harvard Principled Negotiation34 the common model of mediation includes a five- step process:35


1 Malik (2014), p. 404 - 405

2 cf. Schiessler (2013), p. 589 - 590

3 cf. Audi (2014), p. 17

4 Kaduk/Osmetz/Wüthrich/Hammer (2013), p. 108

5 cf. Glasl (2013), p. 17

6 cf. Duve/Eidenmüller/Hacke (2011), p. 26 - 32

7 cf. Rosenberg (2013), p. 37

8 cf. Glasl (2013), p. 54 - 59

9 cf. Heigl (2013), p. 462

10 cf. Proksch (2014), p. 20

11 cf. Exner (2016), p. 58

12 Glasl defines nine different types in conflict escalation (cf. Glasl (2013), p. 238 - 239)

13 cf. Ponschab/Dendorfer-Ditges (2016), p. 824 - 825

14 cf. Friedman/Himmelstein (2013), p. 32

15 here based on St. Galler Management Model

16 cf. Rüegg-Stürm (2002), p. 21 - 23

17 Doppler/Lauterburg (2014), p. 67

18 Kirchhoff/Kraus (2016), p. 101

19 cf. Exner (2016), p. 57

20 here: systemic means because of complex situations in conflicts not to look at a single cause, but rather to analyze the influencing criteria within the effective system. (cf. Lanz (2016), p. 13)

21 Lanz (2016), p. 17

22 cf. Lanz (2016), p. 17

23 cf. Simon (2015), p. 95

24 cf. Proksch (2014), p. 11 - 12

25 cf. Diez (2005), p. 51

26 defined as: overtopping effect of a changed conflict behavior (cf. Hösl (2016), p. 294)

27 cf. Hösl (2016), p. 294

28 Christensen/Stevenson/Marx (2016), p. 62

29 a conflict based on the organizational structure

30 cf. Proksch (2014), p. 26 - 29

31 source: own illustration, adapted from Glasl (2013), p. 451

32 cf. Glasl (2013), p. 450 - 452

33 Bush/Pope (2002), p. 83

34 Harvard Principled Negotiation is the most significant description of negotiating developed by Roger Fisher and Bruce Patton

35 cf. Ponschab (2015), p. 269

Excerpt out of 33 pages


A mediative approach in organizations. Personal transformation and development in disputes
University of Applied Sciences Rosenheim
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mediation, transformation, development, empowerment, leadership
Quote paper
Sebastian Dürbeck (Author), 2016, A mediative approach in organizations. Personal transformation and development in disputes, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/334696


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