Scott Dutton, who is currently functioning as the director of mediation and conflict resolution agency “Fighting Fair”, is a well know name across all sectors of the industry in Australia for his trainings and workshops on conflict intelligence, mediation and emotional intelligence.
After successfully driving the point home that conflict is an opportunity for transformation for companies in Part 1 of the 2 part series, Scott Dutton proceeds to give me some healthy advice for conflict situations. One such, could be a dispute between two employees which results in a toxic situation where work productivity and culture get affected. Scott gives us three tips to solving such disputes. Firstly, he emphasises on solving the conflict/dispute early. By letting it escalate only increases the fiction and Scott advises us to step into conflict situations early (as managers) and resolve the conflict as soon as possible. Secondly he suggests choosing the right method- investigation and mediation. In investigation generally an outsider comes and listens to both parties allegations; find the outcome and makes recommendation for the situation.
However a mediator talks to the parties separately, on a another level, discussing the concerns and challenges faced by them, their allegations and determine whether negotiation is appropriate to the case or not and finally the mediator must find common ground for the parties to openly discuss their concerns. He explains how mediation can take a lot of time and skill to sort out and why it is crucial to make sure the right person is chosen to deal with the conflict in hand. At a lower level (site based for example) it could be taken care of by managers themselves if they were able to identify the issue/problem in its early stages. Scott also reiterates the importance of having clear cut processes for conflict resolution and grievance policy within the company framework to better handle the conflict situations between employees.
With a robust framework to manage conflict, companies can delay engaging a third party mediator or mediation agency, however in the absence of such framework, its best to approach guidance before it’s too late. When asked for setting ground rules for negotiation, he states the best mind-set to have when we are about to negotiate is to think about the other party’s happiness as your priority also.
Both the parties must openly discuss their needs and requirements and both the parties must be willing to listen and understand the other’s needs and requirements. This kind of mind-set will result in collaboration in the negotiation rather than conflict. With collaboration comes creativity in the way the process discussions which safeguard both the parties’ interests – and often both parties will walk away with results that were better than they were expecting. All in all, Scott Dutton makes us realise that winning might not always be the best option, in fact fighting fair and working together, is the outcome we are looking for to achieve the best results from a cultural and productivity perspective.
It was an absolute pleasure talking with Scott – I didn’t have to look at my notes. It was that easy to talk to him and I’d say that is why he is so good at mediating! He can get parties in conflict to talk and collaborate.