Prolonged conflict often leads to a loss of trust and high levels of suspicion about the motives of co-workers or superiors. Organizational outcomes tend to be the sum of all successful and unsuccessful interactions of the members of the organization. Unaddressed conflict tilts the sum of these interactions toward negative outcomes. In these situations, it is helpful to engage an outside, neutral conflict-manager.
The incoming mediator’s first task is always to try to reduce the distrust that is projected on him or her as well, just by virtue of being hired by someone “in charge”. A well-trained and culturally competent mediator is generally able, through a well-designed process, to overcome this first obstacle to success.
Based on having established his/her credentials as a true “neutral”, a sufficient level of trust can be developed to get to the bottom of the conflict and discover the true concerns and interests of all involved. Many workplace conflicts are based in differing perspectives on work processes, communication habits or management culture.
It is crucial that the conflict manager is in a position to take a dispassionate look at all the underlying causal elements of the conflict to be able to come to sustainable solutions. Within the context of reduced trust this is a tall order for anybody who is part of the company culture. This is where a well-trained, outside mediator comes in.