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Wednesday, 23 December 2015 11:53

Organisational conflict coaching: Amplifying employee voice.

Organisational conflict coaching: Informal, independent, neutral conflict management and dispute resolution

“The  Organisational Ombudsman is like a smoke-watcher, if we see signs of smoke we will investigate and, if there is a fire we will make recommendations on putting it out and preventing future fires in that area. No one expects fire, but if it does occur we need a trained eye to direct us to the source, quickly, expertly and safely”.

Dr David Miller. Organisational Ombudsman, The Global Fund. Geneva.


We all deserve a positive work environment, a place where we can enjoy our work for a job well done. When handled constructively, conflict is a normal and useful part of life. If left unresolved people may not feel their workplace is positive. It will lead to low morale and you may even notice that productivity is lost. In extreme cases, people may have health problems associated with conflict.

Many organisations have a formal conflict management system in place and encourage staff to use the process if they get into workplace conflict. As with many formal processes staff can be reluctant to engage due to fear of issues such as retaliation, loss of relationships or other consequences.

The work of the Organisational Ombudsman as a conflict coach in an organisation is a complementary addition to an existing formal system. The informal nature of the conflict coach fosters conflict management and resolution of disputes quickly whilst reducing the cost of conflict both in dollar terms and human cost. 

What situations at work could I sort out with coaching?

  • My supervisor is grumpy with me all the time. I don’t understand why.

  • The foreman seems to have favourites and I’m not one of them.

  • The person I work with goes too slow and ignores my plea to work harder.

  • I think I’m being treated differently than other people because I’m from another country.

  • My marriage is falling apart and I’m afraid leaving will affect my children.

  • I’m feeling bullied by the others. There is so much gossip where I work.


What does workplace coaching offer?

  • Strengthen your ability and confidence to take steps to resolve issues.

  • Assist with negotiations between people.

  • Listen and help you develop options to address issues and assess the consequences of these options.

  • Provide information and clarification on company procedures and practices.

  • Identify other avenues of help outside the workplace.

  • Give the organisation valuable insight into the issues facing staff so they can address systemic problems. (via anonymous reporting with consent)

What is a typical workplace coaching session?

In well-resourced organisations, the office of the Ombudsman is available for personal visits and contact by phone. In New Zealand where the use of conflict coaching is new, enlightened organisations offer a limited service relaying on set days when the coach will be on site. In this situation the coach offers to be available by phone on other days and will agree to meet with staff privately away from the workplace.

Conversations between coach and client are a one to one process so the client can increase competence and confidence to manage their interpersonal conflict and dispute. It is a future oriented and voluntary process that focuses on the client’s conflict management goals. Conflict coaching is not counselling or therapy. The coach will not provide advice or act as your agent or representative. Usually there will be several sessions, the first used to reach agreement about the boundaries of coaching and the client. 

Primary role and responsibilities of the coach include:

  • Help the client identify conflict management goals and steps required to reach them.

  • Co-create a relationship that supports and facilitates the client’s efforts to reach their goals.

  • Assist the client, manage or resolve a dispute or prevent one from escalating unnecessarily.

  • Help the client strengthen their knowledge, skills and abilities to engage more effectively in conflict.

  • Manage the coaching process through a step by step process where appropriate.


    The client agrees to:

  1. Communicate honestly with the coach.

  2. Be willing to co-create the relationship and identify the best way to collaborate to ensure progress.

  3. Be open to the coach’s observation and input.

  4. Provide feedback to the coach on their experience of the coaching process and the working relationship.

  5. Be accountable for doing the work required to reach their goals.

  6. Be solely responsible for their decisions and actions regarding their goals.


    The coach will maintain complete confidentiality about the content of the coaching sessions unless:

  1. Disclosure of the information is authorised by the client in writing.

  2. The client reveals intent to harm others or themselves.

  3. The information is required on an anonymous basis for educational or statistical purposes (no identifiable names and information are used).

  4. Required by applicable laws.


  • Very impressed, well done. Very happy with outcome. 

    - Facilitation

  • Not an easy experience but very worthwhile. Thank you.

    - Restorative Justice

  • My thanks go to both of you for taking on this very unhappy situation and guiding all concerned to agreeing an outcome which will allow us to move forward.

    - Co-mediation

  • It was very practical and helpful. I have used the techniques when dealing with staff.

    - Leadership Coaching

  • We appreciate the hard work you put in to our staff at our factory. We see the positive results regularly.

    - Assisted negotiation

  • I learnt a heck of a lot from Wayne about Mediation and communication and I remain very appreciative.

    - Training

  • Wayne and his team of mediators provide a much needed and high quality service for the evolving employment landscape in New Zealand.

    - Mediation Services

  • "a“Wayne found ways to connect with people who had no faith that their problems or disputes could be aided by Mediation.

    - Process Design