State of Ohio Noticed the Need

Calls kept coming in to the Ohio Employees’ EAP program. Some calls came from a supervisor who was having trouble dealing with an employee. Some came from an employee who was having trouble with a supervisor. Sometimes it was co-workers who were in conflict with each other. Regardless of whom the conflict involved, the EAP was underequipped to help. They could counsel the caller, but the director of the EAP knew a different type of service was needed. So they sought outside expertise on workplace conflict intervention, and they put out a Request for Proposal.

Dayton Mediation Center Responded

The Dayton Mediation Center (DMC), which is an agency of the City of Dayton, responded. DMC provides a variety of conflict management services throughout Dayton and beyond. DMC’s success arises partly from its commitment to the transformative approach to mediation, which leads to genuine, lasting improvement in the interaction between parties. In their proposal to the State of Ohio, they referenced the US Postal Service’s REDRESS program, which also uses the transformative approach and has been highly successful in resolving employee complaints and in improving the work environment.

The EAP director knew that she wanted something that went beyond problem-solving. She wanted an approach that would not only address the logistical aspects of the conflict, but that would also address the crisis in interaction that conflict entails. After an interview with DMC staff, DMC and its transformative approach were chosen. The state asked them to assess the needs and design and implement a system.

The Program

A committee was formed that included representatives from several state agencies, along with DMC staff. They sent out a survey to 65,000 Ohio employees. The results of that survey helped them decide that the mediators should be state employees from outside the department of the disputants. DMC then trained 25 state employees to mediate. Now, when the conflict calls come in to the EAP a specially trained EAP staff member assigns a mediator, who reaches out to the parties and conducts a mediation.

This pilot phase of the program will last one year and focuses on only 5 of the many state agencies. Initial reports suggest that the program is having its desired effect. We’ll keep you posted. More information about DMC is available here. 

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By Dan Simon

Dan Simon teaches and practices transformative mediation in St. Paul, MN. He also writes the blog at The Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation.