Using ADR and mediation to resolve conflicts

By Krish Das and Paul Foisy

At the Department of State, managing conflict is among the 10 leadership and management principles that are outlined in 3 FAM 1214—within the Foreign Affairs Manual—as important for all employees to cultivate. This principle reflects Department values and directs employees and leadership to encourage an atmosphere of open dialogue and trust; embrace healthy competition and ideas; anticipate, prevent, and discourage counter-productive confrontation; and follow courageously by dissenting.

The Department has implemented systems and processes to manage conflict through two offices: the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR) which offers Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR), and the Office of the Ombudsman (S/O) which offers mediation and facilitated conversations. (All links in this paragraph are available on the Intranet only.)

S/OCR is firmly committed to using a variety of proven solutions, from alternative methods to the traditional informal equal employment opportunity (EEO) counseling and formal EEO processes, to resolve conflict where appropriate. Their EEO/ADR and Compliance Section manages and administers the Department’s EEO/ADR Program which serves as a resource to all Department employees and applicants to explore efficient and cost-effective means of managing conflicts and resolving disputes, without the formalities and cost of litigation. ADR includes a variety of dispute resolution processes; however, mediation is utilized as the Department’s primary process.

S/O handles employee-related, non-EEO complaints to help employees develop mutually acceptable solutions. S/O services are confidential, informal, neutral, and independent, allowing one to explore ADR options without triggering formal adjudicative or administrative procedures. In S/O, ADR is provided in the form of mediation/facilitation. This is an opportunity for parties to informally address conflict as early as possible, at the lowest level. S/O serves as a neutral third party guiding the parties in an informal discussion to work towards a mutually acceptable resolution. 

Having tangible, reasonable remedies such as ADR and mediation allows a cost-effective and timely mechanism for parties to informally resolve conflict and come to the table in good faith to create solutions. To learn more about the Department’s ADR and mediation programs, contact S/OCR or S/O.

Krish Das is a communications officer in the Office of Civil Rights. Paul Foisy is a junior ombudsman in the Office of the Ombudsman.

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