I love the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It’s a lot more than just a chocolate thing. You know the chocolate egg scene where Veruca Salt meets her end? Where the “eggdicator” discriminates the good and bag eggs and dumps the bad ones into the chute. I secretly (well not so secretly because now everyone will know) wish I had one of those for support people.
The Support Person role in any workplace tension scenario is crucial. It should not be underestimated both as a support but also as an integral part of conflict resolution. It’s this later bit I want us to focus on. Just as a note, a support person in an investigation can have a slightly different role as the process and purpose of investigation is different to conflict resolution.
I know technically they are only part of the process to “emotionally support”, but in effect they are often much more than that. Why? Because they have the ear and trust of the person who they are supporting.
They can hear messages the participant is too emotional to hear. They are often the one who recalls details the participant can’t. As a conflict resolution practitioner I have had many experiences where it’s the support person’s influence that allows a participant see things a little differently, take perspective, and ultimately, to problem solve. And they do it often with ease because they are on the participant’s "team" or in their "inner circle".
Our practice encourages and engages with the support person. Not as an advocate or participant but as a source of resolution. Particularly in our intake sessions including a support person often allows us to understand the heart of the issues. Please embrace the support person. A good support person is the like the golden egg laying goose and they are potentially a key to resolving workplace conflict.
So, from our experience, if you need a support person for a mediation, facilitated conversation, restorative justice conference, conflict coaching, or the like, choose someone who fits the following criteria:
Hey, based on this criteria, the last time you supported someone, how well did you do? How have you allowed a support person to operate in this space?Back to Willie Wonka. Because all good things relate to chocolate. I can tell within minutes if a support person is a “good egg” or a “bad egg” and I am grateful each time a good one presents (which is more often than not). I am thrilled for the participants involved and for me too because resolution will flow more freely. Just like that chocolate river…..
The Zalt Group works with individuals & organisations who want to restore and strengthen workplace relationships.
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Our contact details are:
The Zalt Group
PO Box 2349
Melbourne, VIC 3161
Zandy Fell 0417 336 806 / Tony Fell 0412 368 823
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