Mediators don’t bring Cockroaches!

Author: Paula Drouin, Founder and President of ADR International Group Inc., February 4th, 2015

This may seem like an unusual title for a blog but it could help other Mediators who find themselves accused of manufacturing issues that didn’t previously exist.

Have you ever conducted a conflict assessment and had a sense that you were suspected of creating issues that didn’t actually exist before your arrival on the scene? If your answer to that question is no then you are either very lucky, very talented, or you have only conducted one workplace conflict assessment and it was within an organization that had no buried conflicts.

My example happened more than 10 years ago but it has stuck with me. I had been contracted to conduct an extensive workplace conflict assessment that included more than 40 people.  It was within an organization that was experiencing an increase in grievances from a large work unit.  Any of you who conduct these types of assessments know how important it is to report the findings in a way that does not identify who said what.  When I was delivering the summary of issues identified during the interviews I was accused of “making some of them up” and of course there is really no way to prove I wasn’t making them up because to do so would violate confidentiality of the interviewees.

I was fortunate to have just read an article, the authors name is lost to me and I wasn’t able to find it or the article during a recent Google search, where the author described the role of mediator as being a person who shines a light on what is otherwise hidden in the dark.  Thankfully that definition popped into my head during the panicked moments before I had to reply so I used the following analogy.  I said something like…… “If a person were to shine a light into an unlit room and several cockroaches appeared, would you think the person with the flashlight put them there?”

The happy ending is that the client did not cancel the contract that day and we went on to do some pretty terrific work together that helped a whole lot of people and the organization.

So next time you are feeling overwhelmed, or being confronted with what is being unearthed through the conflict assessment….REMEMBER…….all you are doing is shining a light on what is otherwise hidden in the dark.  Once it is brought into the light it can be worked through.

What does FAIRNESS have to do with it?


Fairnesszone photo by Patrick Seabird

Author: Paula Drouin, Founder and President of ADR International Group Inc. January 20th, 2015

“The world isn’t fair, Calvin.” “I know Dad, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my favor?”Bill Watterson, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury

Have you ever wondered what is going on in your brain or the brains of your clients when a conflict exists? Have you been surprized or confused about what appeared to be an “off the chart” reaction to something you perceived as pretty mundane?  Well, breakthroughs in Neuroscience are now beginning to explain some of that phenomenon.

I am currently in a Certificate Program studying Neuroscience and what application it may have to those of us in the field of ADR and our clients. Throughout my career I have noticed that ‘fairness’ is frequently mentioned as an underlying interest by the parties.  Now I understand why!  It has been discovered that humans are actually hard wired to detect a lack of fairness as a threat.  It is part of our survival system and can trigger the fight, flight, freeze response in us.  Well that explains a lot!

To complicate matters what is fair to one person may not be fair to another. I will use an example from the world of Fire Fighting.  I could just as easily use an example from any Para-military organization that I’ve worked with but I have a particular fondness for the work life of Fire Fighters.  In most Fire Departments rookies make the coffee, as well as complete other mundane tasks that have historically been done by rookies.  Rookies are rookies until the next rookie arrives.  Some of the new recruits get tired of being the one who always has to make coffee and you’ll hear them say “it’s not fair”.  However, every Fire Fighter on the job was once a rookie who always had to make coffee. So if things were to change then you could likely expect a cry of discontent from the seasoned Fire Fighters that might sound like, “It’s not fair! We all had to make coffee when we were rookies”.

When attempting to reconcile a fight for fairness, when one side interprets the status quo as unfair and the other side interprets a change to the status quo as unfair, it is helpful to take the time to have a conversation about what fairness means from each perspective. Once that conversation has taken place and any assumptions have been clarified, then the rational brain can return to determine whether any further action is required.

For an in-depth learning experience into the brain during Negotiations and Mediations check-out the upcoming courses by Francois Borgacz “Leaders Applying Neurobiology to Negotiation and Mediation”.

EDMONTON, AB, Canada Event – April 11th and 12th, 2016

CALGARY, AB, Canada Event – April 14th and 15th, 2016

VICTORIA, BC, Canada Event – April 18th and 19th, 2016





Link To Neuroscience Research related to Mediation

Neuroscience Promo Brain


Some of you may find this information interesting.  The research is being conducted by Mr. Francois Borgacz as part of his Phd.  It is focused on the Affective and Social Signals in Mediation.  This very brief description is a well crafted introduction to the research.  2016.

Francois will be delivering three workshops in Western Canada in April. You can go to the EVENTS tab for more information.