Dispute resolution when a business can’t afford full time help
One challenge to small businesses is the absence of specialized personnel that larger companies can afford to keep on staff. In addition to all of their other responsibilities, human resources managers often serve as de facto mediators; helping resolve disagreements and other problems in the company. How are you supposed to handle conflict if you don’t have someone dedicated to personnel issues in the company who is trained to help resolve conflicts?
Most small companies deal with problems by either firing one or more of the employees involved in a conflict that is hindering the successful completion of work, or by limping along with unnecessary dysfunction.
A recent survey by a professor at the University of Houston indicates that a very small proportion of small businesses use conflict resolution processes like mediation and arbitration which have been well established as effective tools for getting beyond conflict in the workplace.
For the same reason that a company may not have a person on staff who is trained in helping resolve conflict, many companies may not view alternatives such as mediation as within their budgetary constraints. Compared with the cost of replacing an experienced employee and the loss of productivity that conflicts can cause, however, the average cost of professional mediation is not terribly prohibitive.
Various options for implementing conflict resolution programs
Companies have several options for implementing conflict resolution programs. For a relatively small investment, a company can designate an employee as the person within the business who helps handle disputes and have that person complete a professional mediation class. If a company is small enough or conflict is not common enough to warrant a designated person on staff to handle such matters, a professional mediator can be hired to conduct mediation between the employees and/or management involved. Most cities have a fairly competitive marketplace for mediators, so while this can sometimes get expensive in complex conflicts; it is often a reasonable cost.
Additionally, many communities have Dispute Resolution Centers which provide low cost mediation handled by volunteer mediators. Because they are so low cost, it can be a challenge to get a mediation scheduled, but they are a great resource if you have one near you (for example, a list of dispute resolution centers in Texas can be found here).
Small companies face many of the same problems larger businesses face, but usually without the resources available to bigger budgets and larger operations. When it comes to conflict in the workplace, though, small businesses have options that can minimize the cost and stress of conflict. If you face such a situation, consider using a form of mediation to help move your company forward.