Building Trust From Day 1: The Lifelong Journey of Conflict Resolution


Rebekah Ratliff
Building trust and reducing conflict
JAMS Pathways Editors

Conflicts begin the day we are born. They use crying and other verbal and nonverbal communication to “train” their caregivers to know what they want and need. New parents are told to respond to their newborn every time they call out, to start the bonding process and to reassure the infant that they are seen and heard. This is the beginning of the trust dynamic and the introduction of psychological safety. These call-and-response exercises teach the infant that a certain behavior will get a certain response. This is the earliest and most fundamental form learning negotiation skills. Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development theory explores how the human experience evolves from birth to old age and how our successes and failures are a reflection of the decisions we make and the quality of our interactions with others over a lifetime. An infant learns trust or mistrust from their earliest interactions with others, based on their basic human needs (psychological) and inner conflicts consistent with the needs of society (social). Healthy human development in the stages described in Erikson’s theory is contingent upon the successes of such interactions, and they determine one’s sense of self. 

Cradle to Corporation

Children are much more flexible in conflict. They generally just want to get “happy” again. The older we get, the more we tend to learn the bad habit of digging in to our position. The art of negotiating is hinged on the psychological needs of the people involved. We bring ourselves to work however we find ourselves emotionally, physically and socially.

When conflict appears, we manage what we think and how we feel through our past experiences (personal and professional) and expectations. The workplace is where we spend most of our waking hours, so it makes sense that conflicts occur, but many of them do not escalate. 

With diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) awareness and initiatives that serve to assess and improve company culture across industries, workplace conciliation training is embraced as an alternative to litigation. Customized intermediary mechanisms implemented by skilled professionals have proven to be an effective way to open communications for exploration into problem-solving. JAMS Pathways’ ADR professionals are uniquely equipped to design and implement organizational projects geared toward transformative change. 

The Water Cooler Can Sink a “Ship”

Since the pandemic, there has been a shift in work-life balance. In some industries, employees have the upper hand in the new normal. Conflicts have arisen from evolving realities in the workplace. Left unaddressed, little problems turn into bigger problems. When morale is not good, the discontent spreads like a disease and starts to affect every facet of the workplace, especially in smaller organizations. Think about misunderstandings that occur seemingly by chance and how destructive they can be, even in personal relationships where people know each other well. A small seed of doubt causes people to reconsider what (and who) they thought they knew—in a work environment, even more so. Livelihoods are at stake, so negative perceptions and gossip can lead to reputational damage for individuals and profit loss for organizations. 

People Are Our Biggest Risk

Conciliation efforts in the workplace bring layers of issues to sort through. Various perspectives must be addressed in phases, and there is a cyclical nature to the assessment of the information that is gathered. At some level, even if it’s just work relationships, the day-to-day interdependence that exists warrants patience and advanced skill to get to the root cause. Then, the work begins.

The team approach to conciliation work allows JAMS Pathways’ clients to leverage the skills and perspectives of various neutrals. There is a rhythm in organizational conflict resolution. The right cadence is essential to moving people through the process to the solutions. When relationships are at stake, resolution is often based on non-monetary components, which means the human condition is a factor. The outcome largely depends on the buy-in of the stakeholders and leaders. Conflict management policies should fit the organization’s cultural needs. 

People drive profit. Even with the rise of AI, people are still an organization’s biggest risk. An organization’s culture is what keeps or repels its employees. In recent years, many companies have been willing to explore and assess the structural deficiencies of and biases sewn into their organization’s fabric. This is good news; however, DE&I fatigue and other influences have threatened to stunt the progress that has been made.

Review, Reimagine, Reframe and Restore

In conflict resolution, trust is non-negotiable. Team intermediary work requires the stakeholders to focus on specifically expressed interests and needs. Trust enables the intermediary and the stakeholders to influence and design the outcome. Psychological safety enables procedural integrity and a belief that the issues will be identified and addressed—and that the outcome will be equitable for all involved. Psychological safety allows the deeper commitment necessary for transformative impact. 

JAMS Pathways’ organizational conciliation solutions provide a unique opportunity to design workplace conflict management mechanisms to promote the long-term health of the company.

This page is for general information purposes. JAMS makes no representations or warranties regarding its accuracy or completeness. Interested persons should conduct their own research regarding information on this website before deciding to use JAMS, including investigation and research of JAMS neutrals.
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