In the Netherlands, several mediation service providers are using hybrid forms of Juripax-ODR technology in labor and employment disputes. In contrast to ODR processes which take place exclusively online, here ODR is used to support the traditional offline procedures. Specifically, the participants are asked to fill in an online intake before attending the face-to-face mediation. The answers are only sent to the mediator (asynchronous mediation). Actually one could describe this as some kind of pre-caucusing in order to prepare for the face-to-face mediation.


CASE STUDY

Mrs. Johansson (working in the internal sales department) and Mr. Eckstein (supervisor) are going through a nasty conflict. The past 2 months, Mrs. Johansson has been sick-listed. So far, the tones of the discussions were largely reproachful and failed to produce any kind of solution. Consequently, the dispute is referred to the Human Resources office which recommends mediation.


Instead of participating immediately in a face-to-face mediation, the mediator decides to use an online tool to support the face-to-face interactions. Reasons for the mediator to use an online intake are the problematic relationship but especially the destructive communication. As the textual and delayed communication provides people with time to reflect without experiencing the external pressure of the other party, the use of the online tool in escalated conflicts can be very helpful. It may be helpful to cool down and to reframe the situation.


In the above real-life case study, the intake and first discussions were conducted online. As the discussions became more constructive, there were two concluding face-to-face discussions.



Moderator bios:


May-Britt Kollenhof-Bruning

May-Britt Kollenhof-Bruning, Master of Dispute Resolution is a professional mediator, trainer and cofounder of Juripax, Netherlands. Juripax B.V. is an ODR software and services provider that aims to prevent miscommunication that may occur in handling complaints and – if a dispute cannot be prevented – to resolve it effectively. May-Britt comes to the field of online conflict resolution with extensive expertise in the area of conflict resolution. She completed her formal mediation training in the U.S. She has served as a mediator and arbitrator in, mainly, complex commercial disputes. As an independent contractor she has mediated hundreds of online disputes for various companies, including eBay.


Katalien Bollen

Katalien Bollen is a PhD candidate in Organizational psychology at the University of Leuven, Belgium. At this institute she obtained an MA in Organizational, Work and Personnel Psychology. The subject of her doctoral thesis is “Mediation in hierarchical labor conflicts”, in which she focuses on the role of power and emotions during mediation and the use of computer-based technology while mediating. Katalien is a trained mediator and is currently involved in the courses “Group Dynamics” and “Mediation in organizations."


Bryan Hanson


Bryan Hanson is the Assistant Director of the Werner Institute for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution at Creighton University. As a practitioner in dispute resolution, Bryan draws on his experiences and education to assess the existent dynamics, engage the relevant parties in dialogue, reframe the negative to the appreciative, and bring a sense of calm to the room to assist in the facilitation of group dialogue and resolution of interpersonal conflicts. He has a B.S. from Minnesota State University – Mankato in Speech Communications, and an M.A. from John F. Kennedy University in Organizational Psychology with a graduate certificate in Conflict Management. Prior to joining the Werner Institute, Bryan was a university administrator in the San Francisco Bay Area where he also devoted substantial time to work as a mediator, facilitator and trainer in conflict resolution. Bryan also currently serves the Creighton University community as a member of the distance education review committee.




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Hi,

Before I forget. Graham,
these are the details of the Brett paper:
Brett, J., Olekalns, M., Goates, N., Friedman, R., Cherry Lisco, C. (2004) “Tortoise or Hare? A Study of the Speed to Resolution in Online Disputes.” Study published by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, University of Melbourne Business School, the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt and SquareTrade.
google link: http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=nav...
As far as I remember right cases subjected were squaretrade/e-bay cases

May-Britt, has there been any concern shown by senior management in the organisations using your system that the online intake facility has increased the numbers of grievances raised in the first place over what might otherwise have been the case?

no, I am not aware of an increase of grievances. It is to be noted that in the context were we are using the online tool, the participation in the mediation (and the online intake) is upon invitation and subject to prior commitment of both parties to engage in the process. Thus, as such the intake is not a form that can be publicly accessed.
Note: in those projects were complaint/grievance forms are publicly available e.g. on a website, we have indeed noticed an initial increase. This can be streamlined by intelligent self-help “education” tools. Based on the input given, it engages in a self-assessment Q&A to give the complainant a feeling for the legitimacy of the claim and legal position

For more information see below sample project:
http://www.odrandconsumers2010.org/2010/10/03/dutch-project-indicat...

One final question to May-Britt - is your system used beyond the initial upload of the complaint - ie does the mediator use it to engage in private discussion with the employee? I ask as,if not, it just raises the continuing subject of the definition of what is ODR ( I need to know in order to know whether to add it to the scope of my work with the EMCOD.net 'access to justice' project.)

No, at least it is not common practice. The parties send their respective intake forms to the mediator and they can not see each others intake forms unless the mediator decides to share the information (or part of it) with the other side. Generally this takes place once the formal mediation has started (on- or offline) As such this is similar to pre-caucusing prior to the mediation session. Although it is not 'forbidden' for the mediator to have a private discussion, we do not 'promote' it as the general rule is that it enables the mediator to deal fairly and equally with all concerned and, as such, facilitates an equitable settlement of the dispute.
It is to be said that generally speaking in the Netherlands any type of private discussions (caususing) is very little used and promoted (contrary to e.g. the US) . In workplace disputes there is a growing tendency however to use it prior to the mediation.
The research done so far is entirely based on the Dutch setting but it would certainly interesting to see the effects of changing part of it. For example: the effect of making intake forms visible for both parties, effects of mediator having private discussions prior to start of the mediation etc.
If you are interested in reviewing the configuration (used for those cases that are currently being subjected to the research) see following role-play (select workplace disputes):
https://roleplay.juripax.com/php/defaultpage.php?lgset=en

I hopes this answers your questions
I am delighted to see the interest in this discussion.
By no means do I want to interrupt the present discussion that relates primarily to the effectiveness. I however take the liberty to introduce a parallel discussion and hope we can elaborate a little on the efficiency aspect:
In order for stakeholders to engage there is always the question of the business model (revenue/cost model): why would we use it? what are the advantages in terms of cost (time and money), who is paying for the ODR-technology or neutral services etc.
Let me start of with telling you what our experience is:
Our experiences show that, compared to the average length of a face-to-face procedure in labor or divorce disputes (8 to 10 hours of meetings), savings in time and costs of 30% are feasible when using an online intake. Additional savings are possible when the subsequent process is taking place online. The cost of using the Juripax technology varies between 20-50 euro per case
PS In cases were employees involved in a conflict are also on sick-leave a 'sense of urgency'-approach to resolve the dispute is noticeable amongst employers, as the later (at least in the Netherlands) partly bear the cost of sick-leave/absence
I would be interested if any of you can provide other information as to the effectiveness of using ODR in workplace cases (hybrid, in preparation only, or fully online)
Dan, as far as I know technology is being applied in many of the NMB cases. Are the geographical distance or the problems related to meeting f-t-f the the dominant factors to use ODR? are there other motives for your organizations or your clients (e.g. economic reasons) to use ODR and if yes, would you be willing to share your experiences
Thank you- very helpful idea to getting mediations started online.
May-Britt raises the question about motivation and costs associated with workplace conflict. One of the more interesting reports I have seen on this was produced by CPP Inc, an international firm that focuses on professional development in the workplace. Their July 2008 report Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness it to Thrive (6 MB pdf) compares attitudes about workplace conflict across 9 countries and provides estimates on time spent on conflict and opinions about the need for training in conflict skills etc. Workplace conflict was defined for the purposes of the study as any workplace disagreement that disrupts the flow of work. Studying workers in nine countries, their goal was to examine how different cultures view conflict; the ways they react to it, its short- and long-term impact on individual and company performance; and what (if any) correlations can be drawn between reactions and results both positive and negative. Here's an image from the report showing time estimates related to conflict handling:



May-Britt Kollenhof-Bruning said:
I am delighted to see the interest in this discussion.
By no means do I want to interrupt the present discussion that relates primarily to the effectiveness. I however take the liberty to introduce a parallel discussion and hope we can elaborate a little on the efficiency aspect:
In order for stakeholders to engage there is always the question of the business model (revenue/cost model): why would we use it? what are the advantages in terms of cost (time and money), who is paying for the ODR-technology or neutral services etc.
I would be interested if any of you can provide other information as to the effectiveness of using ODR in workplace cases (hybrid, in preparation only, or fully online)
The CPP report provides a level of data that is compelling for organizational leaders to invest in their employees’ ability to engage in conflict in a more effective manner. The average amount of hours spent on conflict within the workplace may not be bad if they are resulting in the positive outcomes of conflict engagement that they describe in this report. For example, “Three quarters (76%) of employees have seen a conflict lead to something positive. Four out of ten (41%) found that it led to a better understanding of other people, while a third (33%) experienced improved working relationships, and three out of ten (29%) even found that conflict led to a better solution to some problem or challenge. Indeed, one in ten (9%) say that conflict resulted in the birth of a major innovation or new idea at work.”

I see many of the options we have discussed throughout this forum, from May-Britt’s Juriprax to Princeton’s conflict coaching tool, easily integrated into an accessible interface that allows disputants to utilize their training in conflict management in an efficient manner. With the investment in ODR processes alongside continued or increased training, I would assume the level of hours spent on conflict would decrease while the positive outcomes would increase. This sounds like a potentially interesting research project to expand on this CPP study.


Bill Warters said:
May-Britt raises the question about motivation and costs associated with workplace conflict. One of the more interesting reports I have seen on this was produced by CPP Inc, an international firm that focuses on professional development in the workplace. Their July 2008 report Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness it to Thrive (6 MB pdf) compares attitudes about workplace conflict across 9 countries and provides estimates on time spent on conflict and opinions about the need for training in conflict skills etc. Workplace conflict was defined for the purposes of the study as any workplace disagreement that disrupts the flow of work. Studying workers in nine countries, their goal was to examine how different cultures view conflict; the ways they react to it, its short- and long-term impact on individual and company performance; and what (if any) correlations can be drawn between reactions and results both positive and negative. Here's an image from the report showing time estimates related to conflict handling:



May-Britt Kollenhof-Bruning said:
I am delighted to see the interest in this discussion.
By no means do I want to interrupt the present discussion that relates primarily to the effectiveness. I however take the liberty to introduce a parallel discussion and hope we can elaborate a little on the efficiency aspect:
In order for stakeholders to engage there is always the question of the business model (revenue/cost model): why would we use it? what are the advantages in terms of cost (time and money), who is paying for the ODR-technology or neutral services etc.
I would be interested if any of you can provide other information as to the effectiveness of using ODR in workplace cases (hybrid, in preparation only, or fully online)
Nice choice here Bryan in terms of some data providing support for the idea that conflict can be "embraced" rather than simply avoided, suppressed or battled out. An old 1970's article by Walter Hobbs on conflict handling in higher education described the dominant model in Higher Ed as analogous to "a defective pressure-cooker: unsuccessful suppression is followed by an unpredictable eruption--producing, more often than not, a genuine mess." We can do better than this!


Bryan Hanson said:
The average amount of hours spent on conflict within the workplace may not be bad if they are resulting in the positive outcomes of conflict engagement that they describe in this report. For example, “Three quarters (76%) of employees have seen a conflict lead to something positive. Four out of ten (41%) found that it led to a better understanding of other people, while a third (33%) experienced improved working relationships, and three out of ten (29%) even found that conflict led to a better solution to some problem or challenge. Indeed, one in ten (9%) say that conflict resulted in the birth of a major innovation or new idea at work.”

I see many of the options we have discussed throughout this forum, from May-Britt’s Juriprax to Princeton’s conflict coaching tool, easily integrated into an accessible interface that allows disputants to utilize their training in conflict management in an efficient manner. With the investment in ODR processes alongside continued or increased training, I would assume the level of hours spent on conflict would decrease while the positive outcomes would increase. This sounds like a potentially interesting research project to expand on this CPP study.


I feel as though the use of statistics like those presented by Bryan Hanson and Bill Warters could make a profound impact on the current practices of ODR. Resolving conflict through an online process which produces a positive outcome for such a good percentage of people could be very useful in an organizational setting. I am curious, though, to understand the percentage of workers that would elect to utilize ODR to resolve their disputes currently, and how this percentage is expected to change in the next several years.

It is my opinion that ODR forums do not necessarily cause hostile or negative emotions or communication, but they can certainly help to facilitate them.  Rather than yielding negative or positive results, the genuine benefit of an ODR process such as this is that it encourages honesty between the disputing parties and the mediator.  This honesty could result in a more vitriolic or hostile statement.  However, in any case, this emotion and candor should be valued because it more appropriately frames the conflict than a mild-mannered explanation ever could.  Separated of the possible reaction of the opposing party, and free from the potential feeling of judgement that may result from a face-to-face meeting with mediator, online intakes (such as the one provided by the Juripax-ODR technology) allow parties to express their true feelings about disputes without fear of retribution.  These kind of statements are invaluable because they tell the story to the third party more clearly, and expose the true roots of the conflict between parties, even if those roots are gnarled and knotted.

 

I see this as being especially helpful in work-related conflicts.  It is easy to imagine that a worker with a grievance against his or her employer may not feel comfortable (for a multitude of reasons) bringing up their claim one-on-one with their boss, or even to their company's human resource department.  The fear that bringing up a complaint against management may result in disciplinary action, or even termination, may be enough to squelch the complaint and leave the worker without recourse to improve their working conditions.  An online-intake device may be just the tool needed to help ameliorate this problem.  If, with the help of self-guided technology,  a worker were able to write down (in concise and clear terms) the facts of the dispute and his or her testimony on the issue in question, he or she is infinitely more prepared to resolve the problem because the program has systematically designed their claim and bulked up its legal armor.

 

With online intakes from both parties to a dispute, the mediator than has an objective set of the facts as perceived by both sides, rather than jumbled facts extricated from a lengthy and circuitous private conference.  With these in hand, the mediator can then see the dispute from the viewpoint of both parties, informed by the unrestrained candor that the online intake format allows for, and may arrive at a more informed conclusion as to the true causes of the dispute, and ways in which those causes can be ferreted out, and solved in an open and comprehensive manner.

 

May-Britt Kollenhof-Bruning said:

To start the discussion off, let’s relate to the following question:

People often assume that online communication is often much more hostile than face-to-face communication. Between conflicted parties, online communication may give rise to the expression, or attribution, of more negative emotions. What is your opinion about this?

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