and to consider what may be going on for the other
person. They define the issues and interests from their
perspective and consider the other’s perspective and
interests that they are likely to bring to the table, too.
Pre-mediation meetings conducted over time can help
clients distance themselves from the conflict to be better able to formulate their thoughts and regulate their
emotions, gain increased confidence and self-awareness. They can then more effectively communicate
their needs, share their experience of the conflict, and
generally express themselves more confidently in the
mediation than they otherwise would have.
A COACHING APPROACH TO CONFLICT
Another application of coaching is as part of conflict management training in organizations. The goal
of this training is usually to provide practical skills
and techniques that will help eliminate the harmful consequences of poorly handled conflict. Conflict
management training includes teaching general principles to staff; training managers to gain skills to manage
their own conflicts and facilitate disputes between
and among their staff; teaching HR professionals to
mediate a range of workplace disputes; and training
non-managerial staff to conduct peer mediation or
conflict management coaching; and so on.
The limited time typically designated for these types
of workshops places limits on what can be taught effectively and sustainably, however. Generally-speaking,
“one-off” programs do not provide participants with
sufficient tools to manage their own idiosyncratic way
of interacting in or managing others’ conflicts, to the
degree necessary to embed the learning.
Supplementing support with conflict management
coaching, through one-on-one or group coaching
after the workshops, helps each participant concentrate on their individual challenges and further work to
develop their confidence and skills. Ongoing coaching
also helps people to sustain their learning by supporting them in the particular areas identified as requiring
INTEGRATED OR INFORMAL CONFLICT
The notion of individualized help is not new, of course.
Ombuds and human resources professionals have
provided one-on-one assistance to staff for many
years. However, conflict management coaching as a
more formalized technique for coaches, mediators,
ombudspeople and others began to claim a foothold
in organizations since the early 2000s when this pro-
cess found its place within integrated or informal conflict
management systems (ICMS) and ADR programs.
The inclusion of this process essentially began its
growth when federal government agencies in Canada
trained mediators and others to provide coaching as one
of the options available to staff as part of informal conflict
management systems. In 2004, the U.S. Transportation
Security Administration (a division of the Department of
Homeland Security) developed a first-of its-kind peer
conflict coaching program as part of its informal system,
and currently many other U.S. federal government agencies require mediators and others to be trained in conflict
management coaching as part of ADR programs.
These initiatives and others, including in the Department of Defense in Australia, reflect the emergence of
conflict management coaching and its acceptance as
an option within the organizational design of processes
to address workplace conflict. This technique works as
an early intervention in the informal self-help category,
by providing people with the opportunity to consider
and proceed on their own initiative with the help of a
trained coach. Beyond the self-help option, conflict
management coaching may be used anywhere along
the spectrum, alone or together with other processes.
As ADR professionals providing our services within
workplaces, we have come to recognize that one size
does not fit all. Not everyone in a workplace wants or
needs mediation for their interpersonal conflicts. Some
people want to manage their conflicts on their own and
learn how to do so with competence and confidence.
On the other hand, some want to participate in mediation and be as prepared as possible to do so. And some
require extra assistance to apply the learning from conflict management training. These applications of conflict
management coaching are more and more being used in
organizations. The increasing number of trained coaches
may well lead to the development of more ways to use
this individualized process.
Conflict management coaching will undoubtedly
increase in usage as more and more ADR practitioners
become trained and see the value of adding another
technique to their toolbox. What will be increasingly
important to the further development of conflict management coaching is that standards of practice are
created and that research is conducted that provides
more insights about how and when conflict management
coaching best serves our clients in their efforts to effectively find their way through conflict. n