"Divorce mediation confronts one of the most difficult conflicts that exist on earth, the breakdown and ending of the intimate, complex marriage relationship." The desire of individuals to remove divorce from the adversarial legal arena is fundamental to the growth of conflict resolution options for couples leaving a marriage. There is nothing more frightening than change, especially when the emotional stakes of the outcome of such change are so engendered in the emotions of the individuals involved, seeking a non-adversarial approach, is foundational to managing the situation effectively while attempting to avoid the pitfalls of making life altering decisions in a highly charged emotional situation, while still maintaining a sense of voice and control, a possibility the legal system does not usually allow as once again the individual must appoint a spokesperson and then trust that this spokesperson has the interest of all as their overriding goal.
The types of conflict that arise in business are varied but can include employee conflicts between groups and/or individuals, conflicts between employees and supervisors/managers/owners as well as conflicts between business, between a business and a community and between a business and a government entity. All these types of conflicts usually have negative effects upon the business of the business and reduce the productivity of workers and managers, therefore reducing profitability and resources, which can potentially create catastrophic losses for all, including employees quitting, stopping or slowing work as a way to achieve a voice, conflicts between upper and lower management, institution conflicts with external entities such as the broader community where they do business, and in the case of governmental conflict excessive fines and potential loss of rights to conduct business.
Intrabusiness disputes have the distinct advantage of a representative system, in the form of unions that have embraced alternative resolution techniques, out of necessity, and have along history of doing so. Though unions are not always present even non-union employers sometimes seek to utilize the standards of conflict resolution outlined by unions as abase from which to work through intrabusiness disputes, especially between employers and employees, from open door communication employers and employees can potentially address conflict by allowing each party to air grievances and to attempt to communicate points of need. Unions additionally frequently represent and voice concerns about community issues as they represent the voice of those who work within the community for a given organization, and it is usually in the best interest of all to allow unions to work toward community welfare and corporate change where it is needed, and especially on issues of serious public concern such as environmental degradation. Unions have also become increasingly adept at creative ways to call attention and force resolution on such issues.
There is no greater example of the conflict resolution movement than that which exists in the legal arena. As was noted early in this work the emphasis on legal means to resolve problems between entities has driven social demand for change in the manner in which the system operates. Additionally the continued pressure on the system to incur the cost and time needed to adequately or inadequately resolve more conflicts than it could ever fully resolve has created an internal pressure to find alternatives. The legal system is an inherently overburdened system, in the United States as precedent setting is a final coarse of action for individuals and it can be costly and counterproductive for all parties, large and small. Over dependence on the legal system has created a situation where many parties seek alternatives to legal action, as the system becomes less and less effective given time and resource constraints and is even less likely to adequately resolve problems. It is for this reason that individuals within the system and outside it are pushing for alternatives that better meet the needs of adequate and voice reformation in any given dispute. This is the reason for the current trend of legal authorities mandating conflict resolution procedures as preliminary aspects of case resolution as well as individuals seeking to better resolve their conflicts with alternatives. It has become increasingly clear that even in criminal law some issues and/or concerns can be better resolved outside the court, where all parties have the right of voice, council and are offered a platform to create adequate settlements. The behind the scene work of many attorneys has become an attempt, desired by many, to resolve conflict before it reaches the courtroom, and seeing the courtroom, litigation, argument and eventual sentencing/mandates as a last resort to resolution.
Additionally, internal recognition of the futility of some legal proceedings, as well as the desire to see outcomes that actually meet the individual needs of the parties, such as settlements that are not completely eaten up in legal cost for individuals as well as issues such as tort reform, a public outcry has created a sense of dire need for change.
When considering the inequities of our trial system, it is facile and convenient to blame individuals or particular circumstances, and then move on. That leaves unsettled, even unexplored, the issue of whether the system within which these individuals and circumstances operate is fundamentally rational and fair. I contend that our system of trial court dispute resolution is gravely flawed; that it has, as Adams, Holmes and others have averred, much irrationality and injustice; and that it, not simply its practitioners, is greatly in need of thoughtful and future-oriented remediation.
The value of remediation, and court-less conflict resolution is immense in the process of both analysis of system flaws as well as finding best practices for the future, and this is a point that all parties, even the most legal minded find value in.
Many people and organizations have been aware for some time that conflict resolution research and practices are of value to our culture, as a shifting mindset about the ability of a ballooning legal system and the overall experience of legal action have been recognized as flawed for some time. Families, businesses and legal professionals would ultimately like to see a legal system that has the time to adequately resolve issues through a reduction in case loads and reform movements. With this understanding it is therefore important to create a sense of urgency to create systems that meet the various needs of these three main seekers of conflict resolution alternatives.
New Trends in Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution, in its infancy had lofty goals based on ideals that are difficult to meet and just as with any movement these ideals have been both enforced and questioned with regard to the development of universal systems that work to solve conflict by alternative means. The resulting experience will likely continue to drive change and specialization within the field of conflict resolution to better meet the needs of individuals and entities needing conflict resolved.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
One of the new buzz phrases on the lips and minds of professional who advocate conflict resolution is alternative dispute resolution. ADR simply refers to the body of practice and research surrounding conflict resolution and identifies the basic similarities and differences in different types of resolution. It is the umbrella term, if you will to describe the whole of the movement and help insiders and outsiders understand the needs of the broader community.
They all exist somewhere between the polar alternatives of doing nothing or of escalating conflict. They are less formal and generally more private than ritualized court battles. They permit people with disputes to have more active participation in and more control over the processes for solving their own problems than do traditional methods of dealing with conflict. Most of the new methods have been developed in the private sector, although courts and administrative agencies now are borrowing and adapting some of the more successful techniques.
The trend now referred to as ADR is beginning to establish a set of academic and practical guidelines to define and further the cause of conflict resolution and move it from an ideal or good idea to a practical and teachable process, regardless of the area of interest of the parties involved. It seeks to group together the commonalities and allow individuals and organizations the opportunity to better understand conflict resolution and its various systems and sub-systems.
The Future of Conflict Resolution
Conflict resolution no doubt has a promising future. Individuals and organizations are becoming much more aware of alternatives to legal action and are utilizing and creating a fluid growth of best practices for creating systems and providing opportunities fro alternatives to legal quagmire. The umbrella recognition of Alternative Dispute Resolution training and research will likely help those who are entering in the legal, counseling and business world to better understand alternatives and resources that can change the manner in which future disputes are settled. Specialization will also clearly continue in the future as more and more varieties of entities and individuals come tot the round table…