Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution

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“The reality today is that we are all interdependent and have to co-exist on this small planet. Therefore, the only sensible and intelligent way of resolving differences and clashes of interests, whether between individuals or nations, is through dialogue.” - Dalai Lama

Even with the best intentions, people may find they have trouble dealing satisfactorily with interpersonal conflict at work. Over time, unresolved conflict can negatively affect working relationships and the work environment.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services help you find constructive ways to deal with conflict in order to maintain a positive, healthy work culture (example: encouraging dialogue between concerned parties before starting a grievance process).

You should use this service:

  • before filing a grievance
  • when facing a proposed disciplinary and/or performance-based action
  • during a disciplinary and/or performance-based action appeal

Employees and managers are expected to participate in ADR in good faith.

Mission Statement

  • UVA’s ADR program is a partnership of HR consultants, the Faculty and Employee Assistance Program (FEAP), and the University Ombuds
  • We collaborate to provide professional conflict management consultation, education, and services to help all employees reach collaborative, mutually beneficial solutions to workplace disputes

How It Works

  • Provides an alternative approach to the grievance process, but does not replace it (can be used before or instead of)
  • Uses conflict management techniques like mediation, conflict coaching, and facilitation
  • Voluntary and informal, and it can be used without fear of retaliation

Advantages of ADR

This service

  • informally resolves problems with a colleague, supervisor, or subordinate before they get to a formal grievance process
  • addresses issues involving multiple parties with common concerns
  • provides opportunities to work with a neutral mediator who is striving for fair, equitable solutions and adherence to university policies

You will

  • get information about University policies and referrals to appropriate University programs
  • receive consultation ranging from specific issues involving colleagues or coworkers to a comprehensive approach to conflict management in your organization
  • learn strategies for initiating discussions where tensions may exist

For general information or to schedule an appointment, call 434.924.4105.

Our Services

  • Mediation

    Mediation sessions provide a forum for all parties to discuss concerns and generate solutions. Our process accommodates one-to-one, individual-to-group, and group-to-group issues.

    Trained mediators (who are neutral third parties) are accessible through several UVA departments to help individuals

    • clarify the issues
    • understand the other’s position
    • generate solutions
    • develop a consensus that will work for both sides

    Advantages of Mediation

    • More expedient way to resolve workplace issues than more formal processes
    • Voluntary and confidential, so parties are often amenable to solutions that might not otherwise be available
    • Builds bridges of understanding that help parties deal with future issues

    Situations Benefiting From Mediation

    • Interpersonal conflicts between coworkers
    • Group conflicts between teams or departments
    • Disputes between a supervisor or manager and an employee
    • Disagreements among team members
    • Ongoing tension between a manager and a faculty or staff member

    Why to Choose Mediation

    • you want to help decide the outcome
    • you want to improve your relationship with the other party
    • both parties are willing to work toward a solution
    • both parties are willing to listen to the other’s point of view
  • Conflict Coaching

    Mediation consists of individual coaching designed to generate strategies, options, and techniques for interacting effectively during conflict.

    It may be a good option if:

    • you are having communication challenges with more than one person in your office
    • you would like help preparing for a difficult conversation or meeting
    • you would like more communication tools or strategies to work with a coworker where tensions exist
    • the other party will not participate in mediation
  • Facilitation

    Facilitation is the process in which a neutral person helps a group work together more effectively.

    Facilitators may work with small groups within an organization or with representatives of different organizations who are working together in a collaborative process.

  • Informational Presentations

    Informational presentations provide information ranging from basic conflict management techniques to mediation information sessions.

    They may be scheduled for your staff, faculty, or departmental meetings, workshops, welcome events, etc. and can be tailored for your audience.

  • Education

    Periodic training activities will be available for faculty, staff, and leaders across the University addressing conflict management and related topics.


  • What is mediation?

    Mediation is an informal and voluntary problem-solving process that promotes constructive and respectful communication for managing conflict between two or more individuals. This confidential process provides one to two impartial mediators who help parties define issues and reach mutually acceptable agreements.

  • What types of issues can be addressed in mediation?

    Mediation is most effective early in a dispute; however, more prolonged conflicts can also be addressed in mediation, particularly when both parties are interested in resolving the issues. Mediation has been successful in addressing interpersonal dynamics (e.g. one party is perceived as disrespectful by the language, tone, method, and/or manner of interactions by the other party) as well as issues which may escalate into a formal complaint and/or discipline process.

  • Why should I seek out mediation?

    • It is informal
    • No documentation about what was said during mediation is maintained anywhere
    • The process is flexible to accommodate different types of issues
    • It seeks win-win agreements for the parties
    • You are given the opportunity to discuss issues from your perspective and hear the other party’s perspective in a neutral environment
  • How long does mediation take?

    Mediation typically occurs more quickly than most fact-finding complaint processes. Prior to mediation, a one-hour meeting is scheduled between the mediator(s) and each party separately. All parties later come together in a session. Mediation can usually be scheduled within a week and is typically only limited by the availability of the parties.

  • What if there are more than two of us with a problem?

    Our process has the flexibility to also address multi-party disputes, including chain of command issues (two colleagues/co-workers and a supervisor) and group issues (several parties that have common issues regarding another party or common issues in group on group situations).

  • Who are the mediators?

    Mediators are individuals from across UVA who have training and experience in conducting employment mediation. A co-mediator may also participate in partnership with a mediator. Mediation should be conducted only by an individual who is neutral to the situation. For this reason, mediators will not conduct mediation within their own department or organizational area.

  • Is mediation confidential?

    Yes. Parties agree to keep information confidential unless both agree to release specific information to other parties.

  • What happens during the mediation session?

    Before the session: Each party may first meet with a mediator individually to talk through the issues, decide if mediation is the right path for the situation, and help prepare for the mediation session.

    The actual mediation session is divided into two parts:

    • Part I: Mediators ask questions of each party to clarify the issues. In this phase, the parties have the opportunity to hear each other’s point of view one at a time. 
    • Part II: Parties work more directly with each other to reach mutual agreements about interacting and communicating with each other in the future. These agreements are in writing and are only provided to the parties.
  • What is conflict coaching?

    Conflict coaching provides faculty or staff members a forum to describe the conflict from their own perspectives and generate possible strategies that they may initiate to improve the situation, raise issues with the other party, and/or identify other resources. Many people find this process valuable in finding positive avenues to address conflict.

  • What if I want to or have already filed a grievance or other formal complaint related to the conflict?

    Mediation is not part of the formal grievance process. Parties may choose to continue the processing of the grievance or put it on hold while parties try mediation. Typically, mediation can occur more quickly than the time required to process grievances and other formal complaints. If mediation successfully addresses those issues, parties often agree to withdraw the grievance or complaint. If mediation is unsuccessful, parties may opt to continue with the formal complaint.

  • What about the risk of retaliation for raising issues?

    Retaliation is strictly forbidden under UVA’s Anti-Retaliation Policy. The department will respond to any allegations of retaliation. If retaliation is found to have occurred, those responsible for the retaliation are subject to disciplinary action.