Safety professionals often have to manage or resolve conflicts. These conflicts may be between workers, management, trainees, etc. Traditional " positional" conflict management often fails to satisfy either party. In the following creative nonfiction stories, we will look at what works, what doesn't, and why more progressive techniques work best. The following case examples occurred; details have been changed for pretty darn obvious reasons. Read on and enjoy!
"Why should we believe you?! You're being paid by them!"
The accusation was directed at me by one of a small group of very disenfranchised staff at a university many years ago. She said it with obvious distrust, almost spitting out the words with venom. She would suffer no fools, that's for sure.
I nodded my head politely, "You're right, I am being paid by management. Someone has to pay for my services; I'm not doing this as a pro bono case. Of course I can't ask you to pay me, so yes, the university as represented by management – them – has to pay me. But that won't change or affect what I say." I tried to look contrite on my client's behalf and nodded toward them off to the side. "They know they've made mistakes, that's why I'm here. So, it's up to you all. I'm here to resolve it to everyone's satisfaction. After this, I will meet with you all privately if you are willing to meet with me. How does all of this sound to you all?"
Karla studied me, "We'll meet with you, the three of us without them but I'm not guaranteeing anything."
"Fair enough, thanks. Where do you want to meet?" I wanted them to choose as much as possible, to have whatever control of it that they could.
"Back here," Karla turned toward a larger drafting and sign-making area in the back. I followed her and the other two women who'd been affected by renovations gone wild. We entered the room and I closed the door. It was a glass wall for more light. There were drafting stations and all sorts of plastic sign-making supplies with signs in various states of completion. I read a few: "Danger," in red of course; "No Parking;" and "Safety is Number 1" – ironic.