In all aspects of society life, conflicts are bound to occur. These conflicts are normal and may in fact contribute to the health of the community.
However, the positive contribution of conflicts greatly hinges on the conflict resolution schemes which are employed. As such, it is imperative that the people involved in the conflict resolve the issues constructively. Key to the constructive resolution of conflicts is the use of negotiation tactics and strategies in the mediation process.
Stitt (2004) defines mediation as simply the act of facilitating negotiation activities so as to help the disputants overcome the various obstacles in the negotiation process and therefore get to an agreement. In this paper, a review of a conflict between the Miami School District and the Miami School parents shall be made. An overview of the conflict in this particular case shall then follow with the major parties involved being identified. The negotiation strategy to be used to address the issue will be discussed and the rationale behind it explained.
In the end, the paper shall demonstrate the significance of the mediator’s skills in arriving at an agreement that suits parties across both sides of the divide.
Negotiation and mediation are termed as procedures that are utilized in dealing with opposing preferences. Negotiation involves the discussion between the opposing parties with the aim of reaching an agreement. Mediation on the other hand is a form of negotiation involving the presence of one or more outsiders. In the negotiation process, the parties in question may choose to take an approach in which discussions are held concerning their respective interests. On the other hand, mediation is a process that employs a neutral party/parties to facilitate the negotiation process between the opposing members. Shamir (2003) states that “mediation is an assisted and facilitated negotiation carried out by a third party.” Since I have no direct interest in the conflict or its outcome for that matter, my role as a mediator is ideal.
Impartiality on my part is an especially crucial consideration since if either party suspects the mediator of being partial or having vested income in the outcome, the process would fail. Poitras (2009) articulates that a mediator who is perceived to be impartial and only out to get a just solution will elicit the trust and confidence of the parties involved. The diplomatic nature of the mediator also increased the chances of achieving positive outcomes by facilitating unanimity.
The school board and the student’s parents have coexisted peacefully over the past many years.
The Contention arose following the decision by the school board to redraw the school boundaries resulting in many students not being able to stay at their present school. The main concern of the school board results from the unexpected increases in enrollment. The board feels that school boundaries have to be drawn in order to take into consideration these new realities in Miami. The school board feels that if no intervention is made, overpopulation in schools will occur leading to the overworking of teachers and a decrease in the education quality.
As such, the school board feels that redrawing of boundaries is an important step to ensure better services are provided to the students. However, the parents who are the other major stakeholders in this conflict do not share the sentiments held by the school board. The parents are particularly concerned that the proposed plans will lead to a disruption of the student’s school life since many students will not be able to stay at their present school. In addition to this, the parents feel that this move will lead to an increase in student’s travel time are well as have social impacts on the children. Owing to the fact that the children will be transferred to schools that have lower reputations compared to their current school, parents also feel that the quality of education will be degraded.
Negotiation involves exchange of proposals and demands so as to reach a solution (Stitt, 2004).
This particular case presents well defined goals by both parties involved. A goal is defined as a known or presumed commercial or personal interest of all or some of the parties to the negotiation. The goal of the school board is to proceed unperturbed with its redrawing of school boundaries so as to offer better services to the student population. The goal of the parent’s on the other hand is to preserve the school boundaries so as to ensure continuity and avoid the degenerating effects that the proposed new boundaries are bound to lead to. Despite the presence of these polarized interests between the two sides, there also exist common interests by both the school board and the parents. Both parties are genuinely concerned about the well being of the local community in general and the students in particular. Both parties therefore desire to reach a solution that will not alienate them to each other since the two entities have always coexisted peacefully. These joint interests are very pivotal in the reaching of an agreement.
Having established the positions of the various parties and my role as the mediator, the negotiating and meditating process can occur. For the negotiation process to be undertaken a strategy has to be followed. The negotiating strategy that I will follow is the Integrative bargaining. Stitt (2004) affirms that “Integrative bargaining operates under the assumption that there is at least one settlement that results in a win-win situation for the various parties involved in the negotiation process.” Each party will be required to reduce their demands or aspirations so as to accommodate the other party.
The key factor that makes me favor this approach is that it tries to resolve the issue in an amicable fashion so as to ensure a health future relationship between the parties. Safeguarding of future the relationship between the parents and the school board is critical in these negotiation efforts. The first step for me as the mediator will be familiarizing myself with the issue.
I have therefore examined the background information so as to develop strategies on how to deal with both antagonists. I also intend to hold separate meetings with the concerned parties and clarified my role in the negotiation process. A mediator’s attempt to establish common values and experiences with the negotiating parties may yield to a good rapport with the parties. As a mediator, once the goals and interests of both sides have been laid out on the table, I will be able to begin facilitating the negotiation process. I will begin by helping both parties better understand their interests and priorities. From this, it will be clear that the parents are not so much as opposed to the idea of the school board redrawing the boundaries as to the lack of involvement of parents in the process. The parents view that this would result in crossing cultural and economic boundaries since the students would be placed in poorer districts. This crossing of lines would lead to a tainting of the community’s suburban image.
It is therefore possible to appease the parents by having them elect members to be included in the boundary redrawing efforts. This will ensure that some of their interests are taken into consideration in this process. The quality of education is one of the issues that are of high priorities to both parties.
The need for redrawing the school boundaries is seen as inevitable by the school board. However, it can be done in such a manner that it does not lead to the high levels of objections. As a mediator, I can look into ways that the school board can undertake this activity while ensuring that the travel time for students is kept to a minimal.
The parents will however be willing to deal with the fact that economic boundaries may have to be crossed. Through the course of the negotiation process, I will highlight an impasse created due to the parent’s perception that placing the students in a multicultural setting will result to negative influences. The parents believe that this will have a negative social implication since schools in the other neighborhoods have incidents of violence which the parents perceive to be as a result of culture. By helping the parties to recognize these impasses, they can overcome the culturally-based impasses. Having done all this, it is possible that the two parties will reach an amiable compromise based on reducing their demands and dealing with the issues of high priority. Since there exists goodwill and a desire to avoid dispute by both parties, it can be expected that both parties will fulfill their ends of the bargain therefore leading to a harmonious coexistence.
This paper set out to demonstrate that mediation can be used in negotiations to help in the timely reaching of an amiable stand by both parties involved.
Since there is a desire by both sides to come up with a solution that will be beneficial to the community, both teams are likely to engage in negotiation efforts to constructively resolve the conflicts at hand. Compromises will have to be made and both teams will have to agree on terms that are acceptable to all parties. The role of the mediator is invaluable in that it enables the conflicting parties to better understand their interests and also facilitates the moving forward of the negotiating process according to the needs and pace of the parties.
Poitras, J. (2009).
What makes parties trust mediators? Negotiation Journal, Volume 25, Issue 3, Pages 307-325. Shamir, Y. (2003). Alternative Dispute Resolution Approaches and their Application. PCCP Publications.
Stitt, A. (2004) Mediation: a Practical Guide. Routledge Cavendish.