I read an interesting study in the Fall 2017 volume of Conflict Resolution Quarterly entitled “What Difference Does ADR Make: Comparison of ADR and Trial Outcomes in Small Claims Court” by Lorig Charkoudian, Deborah Thompson Eisenberg and Jamie L. Walter. This study was the first to compare litigants that participated in ADR to an equivalent group that used the traditional court process immediately and three to six months later focusing on attitudes and change in attitudes of the participants. The results were interesting.

Positive short and long term outcomes were noted in the group that participated in ADR. In comparison with those that went through the standard court proceeding, the ADR participants were more likely to fully and completely resolve their dispute. The participants in ADR felt as though they had been heard and understood, believed all of the underlying issues had been brought out, witnessed the issues being resolved and bore some responsibility for the situation. The participants learned to appreciate the other side of the story, gaining a new respect for the other party. Even those ADR participants that did not reach an agreement experienced positive attitudinal shifts toward their adversary, a sense of empowerment and having been heard in the process and overall satisfaction with the system. The ADR participants felt better about what had happened than the non-ADR participants.

Might similar sentiments be experienced in a study of ADR in the workplace? In my opinion the answer is undoubtedly yes. People like to have control or at least feel in control of their own destiny. Mediation is a voluntary process wherein the participants control the outcome. After thirty years of handling workplace disputes one fact is crystal clear to me: the participants in a workplace dispute want an opportunity to be heard, to have their day when someone actively listens to their version of events and affords them respect. People want issues to be brought up and resolved on their terms. Imagine the benefit in the workplace that would flow from a positive attitudinal shift between two or more disputing individuals or groups.

As always, let me know if there are any questions