New Years and Resolution

Resolution.   It often is considered to be synonymous with “goal” around this time of year.  But resolution also means agreement.

To those ends, some folks make “resolution” a “resolution” in the New Year, whether for better relationships with a friend, a family member, or something else (sometimes a credit card that needs slicing). 

Chrystie Fiedler offers four tips in a recent article for folks to consider when attempting to resolve conflict, and they are timely (and simple):

1.  Sit Down.   Do whatever it takes to reduce any adrenaline that is coarsing through your veins so that you can make better decisions and lower the stress level.

2. Play Detective.  Investigate the other side’s version of the facts and their (and others’) motivations before responding.  Gather, gather, gather.  If knowledge is power, then collecting as much information as possible is sure to have a powerful affect on making decisions.

3.  Show you are listening.   Paying attention to the other side’s quibble is a sign of respect.  Signals or actions that suggest that you are not listening creates an opportunity for the quibble to become increasingly emotional.  So, let the phone vibrate without looking.  Stop typing, writing, twiddling, etc.  and empty your hands.  Small things can make big differences.

4.  Make an Agreement.   Here’s the ultimate goal:  agree on a future plan of action so that the same error, mistake or problem doesn’t erupt again, says Ms. Fiedler!   Such advice really gets to the heart of the matter – do you want to deal with this dispute again (and again)?  Then, take the time to diagnose the triggers, the problems, and the issues and be prepared to ask for and to offer ideas to avoid them.  That may not solve the immediate issue of “who picks up the kids,” but it solves the ongoing and predictable issue of similar issues coming up again in the future.

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Lemon Problem? Cars and Wars…

Consumers are increasingly facing the reality that taking a company to task for selling them a “Lemon” or other faulty product or service may be financially impossible.  Most consumers then just give up, but there are other means of recourse through ADR! 

In fact, consumers are often surprised to find that they can pursue some resolution based upon an entity’s membership in the local BBB or an arbitration or mediation clause in the “fine print” of a contract between them!

Duane Sevillian, a panelist with One Mediation, routinely performs mediations for the BBB in Georgia.  The program gets kudos and is part of a national push towards resolution between conscientious corporations and dissatisfied consumers.  At the end of the day, many corporations do remain sincerely concerned about the quality of their services, making it right with their customers, and pursuing customer loyalty.  Membership in the BBB and consenting to programs like these is a tangible way that a company walks the talk.

Workplace Bullies: Three Tips

Employment Lawyers who defend employers will have files filled with cases where no unlawful discrimination or harassment occurred, but the problem involved a workplace bully or an employee with some social-skill deficits.  These cases are good for the employer’s lawyer, but probably not for anyone else’s finances.

A workplace investigative firm recently published an article on such bullies in the workplace.  So, what should employers do when they have an employee whose behavior is described as:  “well, that’s just him/her”? 

Tip One:  It is a performance problem.  Treat is as a performance problem.

Tip Two:  Don’t wait until the pot boils over to address the performance problem.  Evaluate the employee’s job description, workplace rules and policies, and common sense expectations.  What is the impact of the employee’s conduct:  high turnover?  disruption in the workplace? low morale?   decreased productivity because of tears?  If the impact of poor communication skills, interpersonal skills, etc. has negative effects, it is time to focus on the consequences with the employee and address, through a performance improvement plan or other means, what needs to change about his/her style.

Tip Three:  If performance doesn’t improve, solve the problem.   Whether termination, demotion, transfer, or other means – if the employee cannot or will not develop the skills necessary to perform the duties of the position, then replace him/her with someone who can.  When you do, you are promoting the business’s interests while also sending a message to your workforce that “how” a job is done matters, “how” they are treated matters, and that the employer (egads and gasps) cares about its employees.

When performance rather than personalities are valued, the rewards may be a significant reduction in liability risks in the “personnel” department.

Caregivers Unite!

Mediators facilitate hard conversations.  One of those hard conversations occurs between adult siblings (and sometimes an aging parent) about long-term care issues and planning for aging.  Indeed, these kinds of conversations are usually “no fun,” avoided, and/or contentious.   A growing number of adult-siblings have begun to use a mediator to facilitate these hard conversations in order to face the music.  this trend was recently described in a feature article in the Washington Post.

Burke Johnson with One Mediation in Atlanta, Georgia is one of these mediators who helps families face planning for parents’ aging or who are facing an elder-care crisis.  As noted in the recent article, it is often a very small price to pay to use a mediator to address these issues – which often include legal issues of guardianship, etc. – rather than pay a fleet of attorneys to battle.  

Call it a family meeting, an elder-care mediation, or a meeting of the minds, mediating how the family will address aging issues can be pivotal to reducing resentment, hurt, and regret among family members.  And, when parents can be involved in the discussion, the process can promote greater predictability and certainty for everyone involved.

Reasonable Accommodations & the ADA & HR

HR professionals should give their sick leave and ADA-related policies a quick review this season.  Many employers have a policy that permits their provision of “reasonable accommodations” to disabled employees, but few really explain how the “interactive process” works when creating these accommodations.

The University of Ohio has a fairly detailed process that involves multiple steps, review of accommodation effectiveness, and other smart steps for compliance purposes.  

Employers should take note of good processes, but also consider Med-Arb as part of the process.  “Med-Arb” is shorthand for Mediation-Arbitration, a hybrid version of these processes.  Employers should give some consideration as to whether their interactive process should involve an individual, whether an employee or external vendor, to serve as a “Mediator and Arbitrator” Neutral over the interactive process.  

In so doing, the Neutral hears both sides ideas about what is and is not needed to assist an employee with successfully performing the duties of the position in light of the disability.  The Neutral can review medical information, ask questions, and attempt to forge an agreement on what accommodation would be appropriate.  If an agreement cannot be reached, then the Neutral “makes the call” on what accommodation will be made – thereby transitioning to an Arbitrator.

Employers should give significant consideration to the use of an external Neutral in these ADA situations, as it may reduce the likelihood of discrimination, retaliation and interference claims by employees.

“Up To Parents” – What a Great Resource for Parting Parents!

The internet has a wealth of information, but vetting the good from the bad is daunting.  For separating and divorcing parents, the breadth of sites, boards, videos, forms, courts, law firms, etc. that are on the web is overwhelming.

But for truly engaged parents who are interested in getting solid information on what they need to do and what their children need during and after the divorce, “Up To Parents” provides easy to use resources that provide great tips, consolidates research, and generally provides a one-stop shop for the “What do I do?”

Short on time?  Then take a few minutes to watch Up To Parents video:  8 Hidden Keys no One Has Told You About

8 Hidden Keys No One Has Told You About

Beware: Watch and you’ll be hooked and will make time to review this site in depth.

Mediation Media: Fairly Legal

Finally, a show about the drama of mediation!  Well, perhaps mediation is really just the backstory to the drama of the main character’s life.  Either way, the potential for greater public awareness of mediation is welcome news.