Queen's University IRC

Queen's University

Dispute Resolution Skills

LR 201
4 Credits

Developing Conflict Intervention Skills and Promoting Healthy Workplace Relationships

It is possible to manage conflict in a way that actually benefits your organization. Learn how. Become skilled in fostering a climate that encourages problem solving and communication. Through role playing and simulations, you will develop the skills to resolve conflicts internally early on, before they lead to costly grievance hearings or protracted unresolved complaints. Become a trusted “go to” practitioner within your organization, someone seen as fair and objective in resolving disputes.

Tour of the Program

a) Introduction to Employment Mediation

To set the tone for the week, your trainers will discuss the factors that both support and inhibit mediation: Is there interdependence among the parties? Are there time pressures? Are the right people at the table? Is there the "will to settle"? Begin to develop strategies for dealing with conflict and working through problems in relationships, data collection, structure, and value differences. Follow a mediation process road map:

  • Preparation
  • Opening remarks/contracting
  • Initial exploration of parties' perspectives
  • Summary of issues and development of agenda
  • Probing and framing the issues
  • Problem solving
  • Reaching final agreement

Learn more about:

  • Conducting positional bargaining
  • Interest-based negotiation, from pre-negotiation planning to the actual negotiation session
  • The principles of integrative negotiation
  • The foundations of facilitating effective meetings and overcoming challenges such as conflict avoidance

b) Strategies for Beginning Mediation

Successful mediation begins with thorough preparation and exploration of both sides' perspectives. Learn how to craft opening remarks to start off on the right foot. Develop the skills to facilitate an early discussion to identify the issues and competing interests, and to ultimately move the sides towards a collaborative problem-solving relationship.

Learn to:

  • Create an agenda for problem solving
  • Clarify the boundaries of topics for discussion
  • Get buy-in of the parties to the tasks ahead
  • Surface other issues that have not yet been identified

Mediation simulation: Your group will participate in a series of mediation simulations featuring role plays and on-the-spot coaching and debriefing.

c) Probing, Framing, Listening

Inevitably, as a mediator you will be confronted by strong emotions and threatening statements. You will need finely honed communications skills for framing issues and interests. Your trainers discuss the mechanics of good listening, the three ways of understanding another person's experience, and how to translate toxic statements into claims to which others can productively respond.

d) Mastering the Problem-Solving Stage

As a mediator, your goal in the middle stage of mediation is to try and move parties to answer: How can we...? or what can we do that will...? Learn how to explore issues in depth, generate and evaluate options, and develop a settlement agreement.

e) Using Caucus

A caucus - a private meeting between the mediator and one party - is often used strategically to promote positive communication and to create movement toward settlement.

Learn how to manage:

  • Confidentiality issues
  • Ethical dilemmas
  • High levels of emotion

f) Breaking the Logjam

Deadlocks occur: there appear to be incompatible interests, issues are complex, and parties are focused on the past. You will learn strategies to deal with such impasses and be given the opportunity to practice what you learn.

Develop the insight and skill to deal with power issues: How can you, the mediator, recognize and address power inequities in the context of the mediation process?

Take a probing look at the nature of conflict, dealing in particular with:

  • Gender issues in negotiation
  • Cultural issues that influence problem solving

g) Using Two Heads Rather Than One

Co-mediation has its benefits and drawbacks. It can offer a balance of knowledge and mentoring to the mediation process, or it can be an additional strain as a result of conflicting styles. What are the ingredients of successful co-mediation? How do effective co-mediators avoid becoming part of the problem they are trying to solve? Practice what you learn in a co-mediation role play, with the help of experienced coaches.

h) Closing the Deal

Learn how to formalize agreements applying the basic principles of written agreements: clarity, enforceability, balance of concessions, and neutral language.

i) Preparing for Home

To close the program, you will discuss how to apply your new learnings to your own organization.

Cover topics such as:

  • Dispute systems design and change management
  • Criteria for recruitment of mediators
  • Goals for a positive conflict culture within your organization

Learning Outcomes

Learn how to:

  • Analyze and diagnose the causes of conflict, and the many approaches to managing and intervening in conflicts large and small
  • Use the communication skills of effective conflict practitioners: listening, framing, reframing, and handling strong emotions
  • Explore issues in depth, generate multiple options, evaluate options, and develop acceptable solutions with the parties
  • Practice mediation, facilitation, coaching, negotiation and a range of other conflict intervention processes in a safe environment with feedback 
  • Raise conflict in a constructive way
  • Recognize and respond to cultural, gender, and power issues in conflict


Organizational Benefits

  • Reduced amount of time spent on employee disputes
  • Significant savings in arbitration costs
  • Development of an in-house capacity in conflict resolution

Takeaway Tools

  • Comprehensive Dispute Resolution Skills Workbook

Who Should Attend

Human Resources and Labour Relations professionals, managers, labour leaders, lawyers, and mediators

Facilitators and Speakers

Lead Facilitator(s)

Bernie Mayer

Bernie Mayer is a Professor of Conflict Resolution at the Werner Institute for Negotiation and Dispute Resolution at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.  He is also a founding partner at CDR Associates, based in Boulder, Colorado. Since the late 1970s, Bernie has mediated or facilitated the resolution of labour management, public policy, ethnic, business, family, community, and intergovernmental conflicts.

Bernie is internationally recognized as a trainer and an innovative leader in applying mediation and conflict resolution to human service arenas and particularly to disputes between public agencies and involuntary clients. He has consulted on conflict management procedures and trained mediators,...

Read the full bio for Bernie Mayer

Julie Macfarlane

Dr. Julie Macfarlane is Distinguished Professor and Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Windsor. She has received a number of professional honours in the course of her career, including the David Mundell Medal for Legal Writing (2016), the Institute for Social Policy Understanding Scholar of the Year Award (2012) and the International Academy of Mediators Award of Excellence (2005).

Julie has researched and written extensively on dispute resolution and in particular the role of lawyers. Her bestselling 2008 book The New Lawyer: How Settlement is Transforming the Practice of Law (University of British Colombia Press) is based on hundreds of personal interviews with lawyers and...

Read the full bio for Julie Macfarlane

Guest Speaker(s)

*The roster of speakers is subject to change.

Venues and Accommodations

Apr 30-May 4, 2017 - Kingston

Queen's University IRC is proud to hold this session at Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, located at 285 King Street East, in historic downtown Kingston. Hotel rooms are available to participants at a special rate until one month prior to the program. Following your registration for the program, we will provide you with a unique link for hotel reservations. For more information on the hotel visit http://www.fourpointskingston.com/.

*If no venue information is indicated, the program venue has not been finalized. Queen's IRC programs are usually held at a hotel. Please check back at a later date or contact Queen's IRC at 1-888-858-7838 for additional information.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I register for a program?

You can register online, call us toll-free at 1-888-858-7838, or email us at irc@queensu.ca. Once you register, we will send you a confirmation by email. Information about the program location, check-in time, and the agenda will follow.

How do I pay for the program?

If you are registering online, you may pay by Visa or MasterCard.  You may also choose to be invoiced first, and pay by cheque (payable to Queen's IRC) or credit card. You may also wish to call us with your credit card number to make the payment.

If your organization is tax exempt, we will require a copy of your tax exemption certificate.

Do you offer discounts?

Yes. We offer an Early-Bird discount.  If you register 60 days before the start of a program, you will save $300 on the tuition of four- and five-day programs, and $150 on two- and three-day programs.

If you register three people from the same organization in the same program at the same time, you will receive a 10% discount on program fees. If you register five or more people in the same program at the same time, you will receive a 20% discount.

If you know you will be pursuing a Queen's Certificate and would like to remit tuition in one payment before your first program, we offer a special fee with a considerable saving. Contact us at irc@queensu.ca for more information.

Please note that only one discount may be applied.

What is included in the registration fee?

Program fees include tuition, workbook materials, lunches, and some dinners. You are responsible for transportation, accommodation, and some meals.

Once I enroll in a program, may I cancel without penalty?

Substitutions are permitted with no penalty 8 days or more from the program start date.
Substitutions 7 days or less before the program start date will be subject to a $500 charge.
Transfers and cancellations are permitted with no penalty up to 15 days prior to the program start date.
Transfers and cancellations 14 days or less from the program start date will be subject to a 100% charge of the program fee.

Where does the program take place?

Our programs typically take place at a hotel. This information can be found in the tab above, called Venue and Accommodations.

I would like to make my travel plans.  What are the start and end times for the program?

Registration and reception begins at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. The in-class program starts 5:00 p.m.

The Dispute Resolution Skills program runs from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday.

If I am working towards a Queen's IRC Certificate, which course should I take first?

You may take the programs in any order that reflects your learning needs at the time. Our certificates feature a core program or programs that introduce you to what we consider the core competencies of the field. The remaining programs offer a deeper exploration of each area. For this reason, we find that participants in the certificate stream benefit most by taking the foundational program first.

My level of expertise is above the foundational program for the certificate I am working on. Do I still need to take that program to earn a certificate?

Queen's IRC offers participants maximum flexibility to customize their individual training needs. Upon request, participants with advanced expertise may skip the foundational program, and choose another program from our entire program lineup, for credit towards a certificate. Participants must earn 12 credits to earn a certificate.

How long do I have to complete a certificate?

We attach no timeline for achieving your certificate. Once you have earned a credit, you have earned the credit. We do recommend, however, that participants complete their certificate within one to six years. Most people earn their certificates within three years.

What if I want to take one of your programs but do not want to pursue a certificate?

That's fine. All of our programs may be taken individually, and you can mix and match the courses in labour relations, human resources and organization development, depending on your learning needs. At the conclusion of each program, you are given a certificate of completion.

I have taken a custom program with the IRC.  Will this count towards a certificate?

Yes. Participants who take an IRC custom program may also use their training days as credits towards a certificate.

If I have other questions, who may I speak with personally?

For a program registration query, please feel free to call us at 1-888-858-7838 or 613-533-6628. To reach the Director and staff members, consult our online directory. To reach one of our facilitators, please contact Stephanie Noel at 613-533-6000 ext. 77088 or stephanie.noel@queensu.ca.