Some and occasionally, a more invasive strategy

Some conflicts simply cannot be resolved by those involved in the dispute. This lesson will explain the use of third-party interventions to help disputants resolve conflict they could not solve on their own.

Third-Party Interventions in Organizations

In today’s complex organizations, there are a variety of reasons why conflict might occur over things like competing agendas, differences of opinions, limited resources, time constraints, and conflicting departmental needs.Many of these conflicts can be solved by those directly involved in the conflict; however, there are times when those involved in these conflicts find that they are unable to manage their differences by themselves.

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The term third party is used to describe a person or group of people who intervene to help those involved in a dispute resolve their conflict.There are many roles a third party might have in a conflict situation. A third party might act as a facilitator to help organize and arrange meetings between the disputing parties, set agendas, guide productive discussions, and keep a recording of what is being discussed.A third party might also serve as a consultant by helping the disputing parties analyze and understand the reasons for the conflict so that they can plan a resolution strategy. Both the facilitator and consultant roles allow for minimal involvement from the third party.

Unfortunately, not all conflicts can be resolved with this minimal approach, and occasionally, a more invasive strategy is needed.

Mediation

Mediation is how one of the more hands-on approaches to conflict resolution is known. Mediation is an informal and nonaggressive forum for conflict resolution in which a third-party representative, known as a mediator, listens to both sides of the disagreement in a casual setting.The mediator is the most active role that a third party can hold. He or she can facilitate discussions in a manner that is designed to end the dispute in a way that is pleasing to all involved parties. What makes the mediator especially effective is his or her independent and impartial stance on the conflict. Most mediators are brought in from outside the organization – or at least from outside of the functional area in which the conflicting parties work.

A typical mediation session will involve the mediator sitting the disputing parties down face-to-face and asking that each of them listen as the other party explains their side of the story. No record is kept. It is the mediator’s job to keep the conflicting parties focused on the root of the issue and not on superficial details or initial arguments. By keeping the root issue as the focus of the mediation session, the mediator can help the conflicting parties develop a shared understanding of the dispute so that they can agree on a plausible solution that satisfies the interests of both parties.

It is important to note that the disputing parties are responsible for carrying out the agreed-upon solution. The mediator does not have the authority to impose the solution. At best, he or she can make a suggestion on how to resolve the conflict, but it will be up to the conflicting parties to decide whether or not to accept it.

Arbitration

When a mediator is unable to persuade the disputants to reach a solution on their own, arbitration may become necessary. Arbitration is a more aggressive third-party intervention wherein an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators listens to all sides of the issue and makes a firm decision on how to end the conflict.Typically, a transcript is kept so that the arbitrator can carefully review all evidence and testimony of the disputants before determining who is right or wrong and how the conflict must be settled.

The decision on how the conflict is to be resolved is binding and cannot be changed. This is why the arbitrator is considered to be the most powerful type of third-party intermediary. Arbitration works well for parties who do not mind relinquishing control over conflict resolution and those who simply want to settle the dispute.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. The term third party is used to describe a person or group of people who intervene in a conflict situation to help those involved resolve their dispute.

There are many roles that a third party might have in a conflict situation.

  • The facilitator role is used to help organize and arrange meetings between the disputing parties, set agendas, guide productive discussions, and keep a record of what is being discussed.
  • The consultant role is used to aid the disputing parties in analyzing and understanding the reasons for the conflict so that they can plan a resolution strategy.
  • The mediator is the most active role a third party can hold.

    He or she listens to both sides of the disagreement in a casual setting to encourage a mutual understanding of the root issue. Once each disputant shares his or her thoughts, they must develop a solution that is acceptable to both parties.

  • The arbitrator role is the most aggressive role a third party can have. The arbitrator listens to both sides, keeps a record, examines the issue, determines who is right or wrong in the conflict, and decides how the conflict must be settled.

Learning Outcome

At the conclusion of this video, you should be able to explain the various roles a third party can take in a conflict situation: facilitator, consultant, mediator or arbitrator.

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