HR offers ways to resolve workplace conflicts

Are a co-worker’s habits bugging you, and you can’t seem to get him to do something about them?

Do you feel your supervisor has unrealistic expectations about your job?

Need a referee to sort out office conflicts?

The Workplace Issue Resolution Program can help.

The program, administered by the Division of Human Resources, offers options for staff members to resolve workplace problems before they get too big to handle. The three avenues available for conflict resolution are:

Open communication. This is the bedrock of Penn’s dispute resolution philosophy. Wherever possible, Human Resources encourages staff to discuss their problems directly with their superiors, or with higher-level administrators if needed, within their school or center. For small matters, your direct supervisor may have the best understanding of the situation and is better equipped to resolve it.

Conferences and facilitated meetings. If talking things out face-to-face doesn’t work, staff can meet with representatives of one of Penn’s resource centers (Current, Oct. 3, 2002) to discuss ways to settle your dispute. After the discussion, you may choose to try direct communication again, or you could request assistance in the form of a facilitated meeting, in which a resource center representative meets with you and someone from your school or center’s management.

Mediation. Some disputes are best handled by a referee, which is why Penn makes trained mediators available. These are neutral third parties—all Penn faculty and staff—who work with you and the other party to your dispute to reach an agreement on how best to resolve an issue. Implementing it is up to you. Mediation is often the most effective method of resolving disputes.

“We like for problems to be resolved within the school or center, but if you do not want to go that route, we offer these other alternatives,” said Staff and Labor Relations Director Sharon Harris.

The Workplace Issue Resolution Program is open to all non-union staff. For more information and a list of all available resource offices, visit on the web or call Human Resources at 215-898-6093.

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Originally published on November 13, 2003