Coming face to face with emotion behind office conflict
Oct 10, 2011
....''Then I was amazed by what I saw. Unlike mediation, restorative justice depends on the release of emotion, and most workplaces are terrified of emotion. There is an assumption that if emotion is displayed, nothing is going to be solved … But here anger and frustration were being openly expressed. There were high levels of emotion and conflict, and that of course is the bread and butter of the dramatist.''
Today, McDonald is the managing director of the multi-national company ProActive ReSolutions, using the techniques he first developed while working as an adviser on youth crime to the police commissioner John Avery in the 1980s.
Restorative justice is no longer a novel concept in the court system and it is used widely in juvenile justice. When it comes to workplace conflict, however, most employers still turn to mediation, where strict ground rules apply, everyone must remain emotionally controlled, polite and take turns in expressing their views.
Invariably, McDonald's first contact by an employer seeking help happens only after internal discipline, human resources and union involvement and mediation have all failed.
The environment can be toxic.
''We're dealing with conflict, where people supposed to be working together as a team are holding deep resentments and fixed and firm ideas. [The room] is full of emotion and very strong feelings. By definition it's messy and uncomfortable and people will go to great lengths to avoid it.''