THE LAWYERS WEEKLY
April 1, 2011 | 13
There’s a lot of conflict in our
organization and it seems to be
getting worse. I’ve heard of
designing a system to manage
conflict. What is that? How do I
know whether my organization
needs that? — A manager
An organization can manage
conflict effectively so as to reduce
costs, increase the satisfaction of
employees, contractors and suppliers and thus improve the competitive advantage of the organization.
Just like conflict between individuals, organizational conflict is a
fact of life, neither good nor bad.
Organizational conflict is a barometer, a measure of dissatisfaction. A
dispute or cluster of disputes is one
product of unresolved conflict but
is not the only one. Organizational
conflict may also show up as
unhealthy aggressive competition
or withholding information
between divisions or between individuals; sabotage; lack of productivity; or low morale.
Resolving individual disputes
will likely contribute to a more
comfortable work environment for
the individuals involved. At the
same time, it will not likely lead to
overall improvement in the organization’s management of conflict.
The problem is being defined too
narrowly. It’s like treating only the
wounds on a person with cancer
who was injured in a car accident.
You need to stop the bleeding and
concurrently keep your attention
on the overall health of the entity.
Whether you are a manager,
employee, union representative
or a legal professional advising
them, you may have found yourself experiencing the concern of
the manager quoted at the top.
Costs of conflict
An organization instinctively
tends to respond to conflict with a
fight or flight response, whether it
is consciously identified or not. A
fight response might be spending
money on extensive lawsuits or not
bothering to deal with an unhappy
group of employees because they
are considered undeserving of the
investment. A flight response might
be transferring “problem” employees to another department or
blindly ignoring all manifestations
of conflict in the organization.
Organizations are increasingly
analyzing their dispute resolution costs in time and money, as
well as the negative effects on
relationships inside and outside
the organization. In difficult economic times, there is even more
pressure to consider alternatives.
Conflict management systems
Every organization has a sys-
tem by which it considers and
resolves dissatisfaction. Whether
it is done consciously or not, that
is a conflict management system,
one of many systems within the
organization and linked, how-
ever effectively, with the other
systems in the organization.
The first step is to identify
what exists in the organization
for all aspects of its management of conflict. Hovering in a
metaphoric helicopter over the
organization creates the opportunity to examine the conflict
management system within the
Conflict can be a difficult topic,
and for some people it is more
comfortable to deal with other
systems like the financial man-
agement or work process systems.
This may be a reason why the
conflict management system is
sometimes left out of organiza-
tional improvement efforts, even
though efforts at organizational
improvement often spark
Kathryn Munn of Munn Conflict Resolution Services is a
mediator, facilitator and arbitrator based in London, Ont.,
experienced in the prevention,
management and resolution of
conflict for businesses and nonprofit organizations.
We want to hear from you!
Email us at: email@example.com
Arbitrators ‘do have other ways’ to remedy unfairness
Continued From Page 9
The matter ended up before
the B.C. Supreme Court, which
dismissed Premium’s appeal,
holding that it should be up to the
Legislature to “effect the necessary
legislative changes to remedy this
deficiency.” The Court of Appeal
also dismissed Premium’s arguments that the power or jurisdiction to dismiss for want of prosecution can and should be
inferred from the obligation, confirmed expressly in the Act, of an
arbitration tribunal to observe the
rules of natural justice.
“In my view, the Domestic
Commercial Arbitration Rules of
Procedure are sufficient to meet
the requirements of natural justice, and it is unnecessary to introduce what would amount to an
inherent jurisdiction into the arbitral process — a means of dispute
resolution that is intended to be
distinct from the processes followed by courts of law and administrative tribunals,” said Justice
Unlike B.C., some Canadian
provinces such as Alberta, New
Brunswick and Ontario have
enacted an express provision
that permits an arbitration tri-
bunal to dismiss the matter
before it for want of prosecution,
noted Kenneth Glasner, a barris-
ter and solicitor with more than
40 years of experience in arbitra-
tion and mediation.
Gus Richardson is pleased to offer his services as an arbitrator and
mediator throughout the Maritimes and Ontario from his Halifax
practice, Ad+Rem ADR Services. + With over 20 years litigation
experience at all levels of courts in Nova Scotia and Ontario, Gus
is also a Nova Scotia Small Claims Court adjudicator. Gus brings
those skills to his practice as an arbitrator and mediator in labour,
insurance, personal injury, commercial and condominium disputes.