Mediators don’t bring Cockroaches!

Author: Paula Drouin, Founder and President of ADR International Group Inc., February 4th, 2015

This may seem like an unusual title for a blog but it could help other Mediators who find themselves accused of manufacturing issues that didn’t previously exist.

Have you ever conducted a conflict assessment and had a sense that you were suspected of creating issues that didn’t actually exist before your arrival on the scene? If your answer to that question is no then you are either very lucky, very talented, or you have only conducted one workplace conflict assessment and it was within an organization that had no buried conflicts.

My example happened more than 10 years ago but it has stuck with me. I had been contracted to conduct an extensive workplace conflict assessment that included more than 40 people.  It was within an organization that was experiencing an increase in grievances from a large work unit.  Any of you who conduct these types of assessments know how important it is to report the findings in a way that does not identify who said what.  When I was delivering the summary of issues identified during the interviews I was accused of “making some of them up” and of course there is really no way to prove I wasn’t making them up because to do so would violate confidentiality of the interviewees.

I was fortunate to have just read an article, the authors name is lost to me and I wasn’t able to find it or the article during a recent Google search, where the author described the role of mediator as being a person who shines a light on what is otherwise hidden in the dark.  Thankfully that definition popped into my head during the panicked moments before I had to reply so I used the following analogy.  I said something like…… “If a person were to shine a light into an unlit room and several cockroaches appeared, would you think the person with the flashlight put them there?”

The happy ending is that the client did not cancel the contract that day and we went on to do some pretty terrific work together that helped a whole lot of people and the organization.

So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, or being confronted with what is being unearthed through the conflict assessment….REMEMBER…….all you are doing is shining a light on what is otherwise hidden in the dark.  Once it is brought into the light it can be worked through.

What does FAIRNESS have to do with it?


Fairnesszone photo by Patrick Seabird

Author: Paula Drouin, Founder and President of ADR International Group Inc. January 20th, 2015

“The world isn’t fair, Calvin.” “I know Dad, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?”Bill Watterson, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury

Have you ever wondered what is going on in your brain or the brains of your clients when a conflict exists? Have you been surprized or confused about what appeared to be an “off the chart” reaction to something you perceived as pretty mundane?  Well, breakthroughs in Neuroscience are now beginning to explain some of that phenomenon.

I am currently in a Certificate Program studying Neuroscience and what application it may have to those of us in the field of ADR and our clients. Throughout my career I have noticed that ‘fairness’ is frequently mentioned as an underlying interest by the parties.  Now I understand why!  It has been discovered that humans are actually hard wired to detect a lack of fairness as a threat.  It is part of our survival system and can trigger the fight, flight, freeze response in us.  Well that explains a lot!

To complicate matters what is fair to one person may not be fair to another. I will use an example from the world of Fire Fighting.  I could just as easily use an example from any Para-military organization that I’ve worked with but I have a particular fondness for the work life of Fire Fighters.  In most Fire Departments rookies make the coffee, as well as complete other mundane tasks that have historically been done by rookies.  Rookies are rookies until the next rookie arrives.  Some of the new recruits get tired of being the one who always has to make coffee and you’ll hear them say “it’s not fair”.  However, every Fire Fighter on the job was once a rookie who always had to make coffee. So if things were to change then you could likely expect a cry of discontent from the seasoned Fire Fighters that might sound like, “It’s not fair! We all had to make coffee when we were rookies”.

When attempting to reconcile a fight for fairness, when one side interprets the status quo as unfair and the other side interprets a change to the status quo as unfair, it is helpful to take the time to have a conversation about what fairness means from each perspective. Once that conversation has taken place and any assumptions have been clarified, then the rational brain can return to determine whether any further action is required.

For an in-depth learning experience into the brain during Negotiations and Mediations check-out the upcoming courses by Francois Borgacz “Leaders Applying Neurobiology to Negotiation and Mediation”.

EDMONTON, AB, Canada Event – April 11th and 12th, 2016

CALGARY, AB, Canada Event – April 14th and 15th, 2016

VICTORIA, BC, Canada Event – April 18th and 19th, 2016





Link To Neuroscience Research related to Mediation

Neuroscience Promo Brain


Some of you may find this information interesting.  The research is being conducted by Mr. Francois Borgacz as part of his Phd.  It is focused on the Affective and Social Signals in Mediation.  This very brief description is a well crafted introduction to the research.  2016.

Francois will be delivering three workshops in Western Canada in April. You can go to the EVENTS tab for more information.

Mentoring the Next Generation of ADR Professionals

Providing ADR Services and Training for over twenty years has taught me a few things. A few too many maybe. When I started in this field there was not a listing in the phone book for mediators. Now, who even uses a phone book. A whole lot has changed and it has been a full-time job just keeping up with technology. What hasn’t changed is how little we seem to do to support new people entering the field of ADR.

I have terrifying memories of the stress I experienced conducting my first few mediations. Those of us who are trainers and assessors of negotiation and mediation students work to develop training that will instill confidence.  Training that will provide a strong values-based foundation, layered on top with skills and techniques and a solid time-tested process to guide their work. It is what we do for them while they are with us in training.  This article is meant to begin an inquiry about how to support them post-graduation.

Sometimes they leave training convinced they need a few thousand hours of practice before they can work with ‘real’ people; other times they leave full of bravado rather than confidence; in most cases they just leave.  They leave and are left to fend for themselves trying to gain some invaluable experience without doing  harm.  It is pretty much the same way I entered this field twenty years ago.  I have spent many years researching and enhancing the training experience and I am just now ready to focus on enhancing the post-graduate experience.

What ideas do you have?  What thoughts have you had about how we can support new people in this field?  If you are fairly new to the field, what has your experience of gaining a foothold been like? How many graduates from ADR training want to work full-time in this field? How many of you took the training to make yourself more valuable and marketable within another discipline?

We have to do more than create Standards and Designations for people who may never have a chance to conduct a mediation.  Let’s create a strong, supportive, inclusive community of ADR Practitioners.  A community that is welcoming to new practitioners.  We may not be able to promise work in the field for all graduates, but perhaps we can create ways for them to keep refreshing their skills without them having to take out a loan.  Let’s work together to establish some creative ways to make opportunities for real work to be available.

As I write this my mind keeps generating all the reasons it won’t work and what challenges we will face. My brain, like yours, is always making stuff up.  I am going to work at having it make up ways to promote and improve the field.  Are you interested in joining the “Strengthen the Field” Initiative?