Addressing Conflict: UMB’s Workplace Mediation Service
For decades C-DRUM has worked with schools, universities, and government agencies to design and integrate conflict management systems and mediation. C-DRUM recently brought a mediation program to our own university campus. Now celebrating its first year, the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s Workplace Mediation Service (WMS) serves as a resource for employees to use mediation to address workplace conflicts. UMB, like other universities across the country, added mediation as a service for employees who want more control over how their workplace issues are resolved. Dr. Roger Ward, EdD, JD, MSL, MPA, interim provost, executive vice president, and dean of the Graduate School, had discussed the need for such a program at UMB for several years. “We realized that not every complaint needed to put through an extended review/investigation process,” says Ward. “Oftentimes, conflicts in the workplace are the result of misunderstandings for which mediation is an appropriate option.”
Mediation is a process in which a neutral mediator facilitates a conversation and problem-solving process between the parties involved. Mediation provides an opportunity for individuals to discuss their concerns and develop their own resolution. The employee-focused process responds to the needs and concerns of UMB employees and UMB administration, while upholding the standards of mediation.
The Workplace Mediation Service complements the variety of options available to UMB faculty and staff to support a positive work environment. As described by the WMS coordinator, Aisha Samples, “A campus climate that employees and leadership are looking for is more attainable when we discuss and try to resolve difficult workplace situations. It can be tough to initiate those conversations alone so the Workplace Mediation Service helps by providing a service where employees feel supported and heard throughout the process.” In developing the program, C-DRUM prioritized the importance of employees’ ability to access mediation services through a variety of methods and at any point in the life of the conflict, including concurrently with the grievance process.
WMS seeks to improve the capacity of employees to problem solve and resolve their own disputes. The WMS continues to adapt to the evolving needs of the UMB community. Increased teleworking and restrictions on research and clinical interactions create new and different opportunities for conflict. In response to this need, WMS expanded its mediation services to include homeplace conflict that impacts work. Furthermore, participants can now engage in mediation through phone and video conferencing platforms.
The WMS values a roster of mediators representative of UMB employees, consistent with the University’s Core Value of Diversity. Starting in August and concluding in December, C-DRUM will provide a virtual mediation training for thirteen UMB employees. These newly trained mediators will join the current C-DRUM staff mediators to form a WMS shared neutrals roster.
In the coming year WMS will continue its outreach to increase awareness and use of mediation throughout the UMB community. More information on WMS is available at www.umaryland.edu/mediation.