Published: January 7, 2015
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Jan. 7, 2015) -- The Fort Rucker Equal Employment Opportunity Office recently held a mediation certification course to train individuals to provide an alternative method for handling workplace complaints.
“The mediation certification course serves as a venue for employees to use when there are disputes within the organization,” Samuel Cruz, Fort Rucker Equal Employment Opportunity education deputy director, said. “We believe that using this process reduces the timeline it takes to settle the dispute when compared to other methods employees have available.”
According to Cruz, the reduced resolution timeline allows employees to return to work more quickly and cut the overall loss-of-labor cost for organizations. However, the mediation process also provides benefits for the employees involved.
“It allows the parties to come up with their own decisions in regards to how the issue is settled,” he said. “I think that is the big piece of mediation. No one makes the decision for them — not a judge, not an investigator, simply the parties. That is a big selling piece of this course.”
Angela Jones, Fort Rucker EEO complaint manager, said participants in the recent mediation certification course were asked to volunteer but had to be nominated by their supervisor.
“The supervisor’s concurrence was important because these employees will become collateral duty EEO staff mediators who will be mediating cases during their duty hours,” she said.
“In general, mediation is a venue parties can use to discuss conflicting viewpoints with a third-party neutral present to help the discussion move along in a positive direction resulting in a mutually beneficial resolve,” she added. “Mediation is private, informal and confidential. This encourages open and uninhibited communication and empowers the parties to concentrate on solutions, which avoids lengthy complaints processing while improving future working relationships.”
Jones said the important mediation certification course is rigorous and strenuous.
“It’s not your typical Army training where you sit in a class for a week, take a test, get a certificate and go home,” she said. “The students are truly put through the paces with reading assignments. They participate in role-playing practice mediations and ultimately a role playing practicum examination. The students will tell you it is amongst the most difficult but best training they have ever attended. Most importantly, during the training the students needed to take a self-assessment of their ability to be comfortable observing conflict while maintaining their neutrality.
“Many people are not comfortable with conflict and it is human nature to gravitate to one point of view over another,” she added. “It is imperative the mediator understands there are two sides to every story and the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The mediator is not there to flush out the truth of the matter, but rather get the parties involved communicating and moving towards resolution. This is a skill that does not come (naturally) to the majority of people, but is taught during this course.”
According to Jones, having an alternative dispute resolution program is required by Army Regulation 690-600, regarding EEO.
“Mediation is the Army’s preferred method of alternative dispute resolution,” she said. “The goal is for EEO complaints to be resolved at the lowest level possible and to get people back to work. The vast majority of EEO complaints filed are a result of poor communication or a lack of communication.
“When people do not communicate effectively, this leads to misperceptions of how and why things are done the way they are,” Jones added. “Through mediation, these lines of communication (are) opened. People can freely express their thoughts and ideas without fear of retribution because what happens in mediation should stay in mediation. More often than not, once the parties use mediation to resolve their conflict, their ability to communicate effectively in the future is more successful.”
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