Email Updates
Sign up to stay informed about the latest happenings at Interior.


Sign up to stay informed about the latest happenings at Interior.
Email Updates
Sign up to stay informed about the latest happenings at Interior.
U.S. Department of the Interior - Office of Policy, Management and Budget
Click to toggle text size.

Managing Workplace Conflict at DOI: A Shared Responsibility

Elena Gonzalez, Director, Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution

Slide 1:

Managing Workplace Conflict at DOI: A shared responsibility

Presented by Elena Gonzalez, Director
Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution

  • For more information, go to our website at
  • Or call us at 202-327-5383

Slide 2:

Presentation Objectives:

Introduction to CADR office

Evolution of Dispute Resolution in the workplace

Integrated Conflict Management Approach at DOI
          Where have we been?
          Where are we going?

Slide 3:

Office of Collaborative Action and Dispute Resolution

  • Established in October 2001
  • Under Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget, reporting to Scott Cameron, DAS for Performance, Accountability and Human Resources
  • CADR carries out the Department’s responsibilities under the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1996:
    • Director is the Dispute Resolution Specialist for DOI
    • Responsible for implementation of DOI’s ADR Policy
    • Broad policy since 1994 encouraging use of early consensus-building, ADR and negotiated rulemaking in all areas of DOI’s work
    • Independent internal resource and coordinating point for development and implementation of alternative dispute resolution systems

Slide 4:

CADR’s vision:

  • To integrate the use of collaborative problem-solving and ADR processes into our daily operations so conflicts and disputes are prevented and resolved at the earliest opportunity and at the lowest possible level, whenever practicable
  • Promote a culture where adversarial adjudications and litigation are used when appropriate and necessary, but not as the default method of resolving problems.
  • ADR processes are important in all areas of our work, but our focus today is on workplace issues.

Slide 5:

What is ADR?

  • ADR = Alternative dispute resolution.
  • Traditional method of dispute resolution is formal adjudication of rights such as court lititgation or administrative adjudication.
  • Simplest definition: The term ADR refers to a spectrum of dispute resolution processes other than the traditional methods of formal adjudication, which can be used to informally prevent, manage and resolve conflicts.
  • Most common ADR process is mediation.
  • In general, ADR processes are more flexible, more creative, and less adversarial than adjudication. Parties keep more control over the process and the resolution. You match the process to the problem.

Slide 6:

Evolution of Dispute Resolution to Conflict Management

Organizations generally move through four phases in addressing conflict:

  • Phase 1: Absence of Defined Organizational Dispute Resolution Processes (Power based methods - often lose-lose)
  • Phase 2: Rights based methods, e.g. Grievance Processes and Adjudication of complaints – argue positions and rights and get a decision (often win-lose)
  • Phase 3: Interest based methods, e.g. problem-solving approaches - parties work together to resolve disputes by focusing on their underlying interests, and seeking mutually acceptable resolutions, e.g. joint problem-solving or mediation (can be win-win)
  • Phase 4: Integrated Conflict Management Systems – provides options for all types of problems and all people

Slide 7:

Effective Integrated conflict management systems:

  • Recognize conflict is inevitable, better for organization to surface concerns and address them constructively – unresolved conflict reduces morale and productivity and leads to disputes
  • A systematic approach to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts
  • Coordinate options and structures across areas and functions
  • Integrate effective conflict management into the organization’s daily operations
  • Build in preventive methods to address sources of conflicts e.g access to reliable information, communication, education
  • Create a culture that welcomes concerns and constructive dissent and encourages informal resolution at the earliest opportunity and the lowest possible level through direct negotiation – focuses on problem-solving and reduces the need to frame problem as a violation of a legal right
  • Provide multiple access points and multiple options for addressing all types of problems for all people in the workplace – both rights based and interest based options should be available
  • Is understandable to all, flexible and user friendly

Slide 8:


Slide 9:


Slide 10:

History of Workplace ADR in DOI - same four phases

  • Rights based methods – grievance, eeo complaints, etc.
  • In 2000, Department rolled out two ADR programs-mediation focus: CORE (Personnel program) and EEO PLUS (EEO program) to supplement complaint processes.
  • Each program provided bureaus with different guidance, standards, operating procedures, forms, training requirements, sources of neutrals, promotional materials, tracking and evaluation systems.
  • During ADR review in 2001, found inconsistent and uneven implementation from bureau to bureau and between geographic regions and offices.
  • Heard concerns about confusion, lack of resources to support operation of both programs, lack of coordination, different standards, guidance and operating procedures.
  • No independent resource responsible for coordinating alternative dispute resolution options.

Slide 11:

Moving to a more integrated approach

? CADR office charged to develop and coordinate implementation of one unified ADR system involving HR, EEO, SOL, OIG, and all bureaus
? Move from competing ADR programs to a model of shared responsibility for managing conflict in the workplace – desire for one comprehensive system for addressing workplace concerns that is available to all employees for all types of issues and includes multiple options for addressing concerns
? reduce administrative redundancy, improve employee satisfaction and customer service, reduce the direct and indirect costs associated with unresolved conflicts and adjudication of disputes, increase and improve use of interest based options and rights based options
? CADR established a design team involving all stakeholders to build an integrated conflict management system - easily accessible to all DOI employees through multiple access points to address any employment concern at the earliest opportunity and the lowest possible level

Slide 12:

Why offer more options?

  • To be effective, organization needs interest based and rights based approaches to resolving disputes.
  • Rights based processes are necessary and most appropriate option for seeking redress of a violation of law or unfair treatment
    • some employees prefer this method of resolution
  • Options for preventing or using Interest based processes are:
    • More flexible and allow parties more control over process/outcome
    • more informal, can be used early, at lowest level
    • faster and less expensive
    • more effective solutions with less damage to workplace relationships
    • allow for more creative solutions that may not be available through rights-based processes
    • parties may be more satisfied with process and outcome - more committed to agreement reached

Slide 13:

More benefits of multiple options . . .

  • may provide redress for issues that don’t fit well in actionable category (not every issue fits into a rights based process)
  • reduce burden on rights based processes and allow rights based systems to function more efficiently for those who use them
  • provide ways for employees to come forward with information about problems such as safety, drug and alcohol abuse, theft, potential violence, management concerns, problems with organizational structure or procedures, without fear of being swept into an adversarial process
  • foster skills that enhance teamwork and reinforce positive organizational values

Slide 14:

Continued . . .

  • help reduce turf battles within the organization and respect diversity
  • provides avenues to surface employment related issues that destroy morale and reduce productivity if left unresolved

Slide 15:

Design of InterioResolutioNetwork (IRN)

  • Assessment Phase-review and inquiry
  • Leadership Commitment to new approach
  • Workplace design team formed, trained together and reached consensus on all key issues to design a model for an integrated conflict management system for DOI-tailored
  • Model presented to an executive committee and to bureau leadership and approved
  • Implementation of IRN and transition from CORE and EEO Plus

Slide 16:

IRN – Key components IRN – Key components

  • Understandable and easy to use – one coordinated system with links between resources
  • Employees will be able to access consistent information on options available to them and make informed choices on how to address any problem
  • Multiple access points – through supervisor, HR, EEO, SOL,OIG, EAP, CADR, Bureau ADR contacts, website
  • Available to all employees (supervisors, managers, staff members, professionals)
  • Includes all types of problems and concerns, even if they don’t fit within a complaint process
  • Multiple options available/match the approach to the problem
  • Establishes easy access to assistance and qualified third party neutrals, if needed

Slide 17:

Next Steps

  • Implementation and transition phase
    • CADR to convene a national implementation team
    • plans to be developed by January with all stakeholders engaged
  • Phased roll-out by bureaus, and SOL and OS together ( over 18-24 months)
  • When implemented, the IRN will replace CORE and EEO PLUS programs and CADR office will be the central coordinating point

Slide 18:

What is happening now?

Pre-launch activity:

  • Fill workplace coordinator position in CADR- vacancy announcement closes on Sept. 30
  • Identifying implementation team members
  • Drafting new DM Chapter on IRN and SOP handbook
  • Roster of qualified internal neutrals and access to external neutrals
  • Orientation program - CD Rom being developed to introduce IRN
  • Developing communication tools and promotional materials for use by all
  • Planning training to support IRN implementation
  • For more information, go to our website at
  • Developing electronic tracking and evaluation systems with EEO and HR
  • Including IRN in revised administrative grievance procedures

Slide 19:

Keys to Success

  • Systems’ success is a shared responsibility – all of us working together: employees, managers, eeo counselors, attorneys, union reps, hr specialists
  • Constant communication and coordination between all components at Departmental level and with bureaus
  • Must be willing to experiment, monitor results, solicit honest feedback, and make adjustments as we learn – continuous improvement
  • Value communication, education and training
  • Must all communicate a consistent message about the kind of workplace we are committed to at DOI

Slide 20:

None of us is as smart as all of us.
 Japanese proverb.