“Conflict enables our misery and makes us feel righteous”

So says Ken Cloke one of the foremost practitioners and writers on conflict resolution.

In our work with individuals who, for want of a more refined phrase, are at war with one another often finding it extremely upsetting to be in the same room together we have to navigate a way through the emotion, impulse to blame and attempts to justify positions and actions. For some participants moving beyond who was right and who was wrong (usually they were right and the other wrong) is almost impossible.

As Cloke says, it seems that for some participants retaining a firm hold on their perspective does result in them feeling righteous and gives them reason to criticise the other for not accepting their own view of events. It also keeps them firmly entrenched in the identity of the person wronged – the victim and the other is the persecutor.

Mediation is not meant to confirm the facts of the trigger events but to find a way to have a productive work conversation. It is impossible for us to say who was right or wrong – after all we were not present and we cannot act as a judge. Events were as they were perceived to be unless participants are prepared to listen and understand one another’s version of events. What we do want to do is to move people beyond their entrenched position (without forcing them to give up these positions) and find a way to talk about things that matter in the workplace – like patient safety.

by Dr. Megan Joffe