Pollack Peacebuilding offers restorative practices for organizations and teams experiencing fallout from workplace conflict. Through methods like restorative circles and facilitated dialogue, restorative practices can help organizations better retain employees, foster a positive workplace culture and team relationships, and ultimately positively influence the bottom line.
Restorative practices for the workplace are commitments to appropriately meeting the needs of individuals who have been harmed or affected by conflict at work.
The concept of restorative practices in the workplace stems from the practice of restorative justice in the legal field. In the legal field, the righting of wrongs occurs through a highly structured legal system. While proper discipline is given to the offender through this system, the needs of victims are often not met and can even be further exploited. Restorative justice aims at addressing the harms, needs, and obligations of each party affected by the offense to provide a greater opportunity for healing.
The goal of restorative practices for the workplace is, like restorative justice in the legal system, to make sure employee concerns and needs are met. In organizations, this functions as an effective conflict management mechanism for present conflicts and an effective conflict prevention mechanism for potential future conflicts.
You may ask, why are such practices needed for workplace conflict? If you have proper disciplinary policies and procedures in place to deal with workplace conflict or policy violations, what’s the point of restorative practices?
Just as restorative justice provides an antidote to the unmet needs of parties within the legal system’s structured response to wrongdoing, workplace restorative practices address the concerns and needs of employees that are often ignored while organizational policies and procedures are implemented. In fact, we would suggest that providing space for employees to err their concerns and frustrations post-workplace conflict is just as essential as an organization’s disciplinary structures and systems.
Often, when workplace conflicts occur that result in someone being let go from the company, the conflict does not simply disappear. Even when conflicts seem minor, inappropriate behavior can hurt and offend others. Most of the time, employees that are directly and indirectly involved in conflict may not feel completely at ease, even if disciplinary action has been taken. They may feel that some injustice has taken place which if ignored, can lead to a loss of trust and escalation of conflict.
In this way, workplace conflict can hinder employee engagement, increase employee stress, and lead to demotivation if not addressed. Considering the cost of conflict in the workplace, HR and management should be prepared to offer some type of restorative practices post-conflict. Such practices can help avoid future legal damages arising from conflict, improve team productivity, and improve employee well-being.
At Pollack Peacebuilding, we offer restorative practices for the workplace to help your organization better withstand workplace conflict. While our approach to every organization is custom to their needs, there are two practices that we find helpful in most cases: restorative circles and facilitated dialogue.
Restorative circles involve all members directly and indirectly involved in a conflict. Within organizations, this often means the entire team is included in the restorative circle process. Traditionally, restorative circles start with everyone sitting in a circle facing each other. Beforehand, the group can set ground rules like confidentiality and making sure everyone gives full attention to the speaker. The group is asked a question and then one-by-one, everyone gets a chance to share their answer or experiences. Restorative circles particularly are effective at creating an open space for shared understanding, empathy, and dialogue on difficult topics. Through shared understanding and bridge-building, restorative circles help everyone feel heard and address their concerns and needs. While restorative circles are most frequently facilitated in person, Pollack Peacebuilding offers both in-person and virtual options depending on each organization’s needs.
Facilitated dialogue is the practice of talking about an issue in an open space with a facilitator guiding the conversation. Facilitated dialogue is especially helpful for situations that may require a mix of open conversation, skills training, and agreement-making. At Pollack Peacebuilding, our goal with facilitated dialogue is to help individuals in conflict reconcile their grievances and create a plan to move forward productively in the working relationship. We find that having a neutral third-party facilitator involved in difficult conversations is extremely helpful for reaching this goal. An experienced facilitator is able to build trust among everyone involved in the conversation, increasing the odds of resolution. As a restorative practice, facilitated dialogue has much to offer organizations that want to manage present conflict and prevent future conflict.