Top 5 Reasons Working With External Dispute Solvers Makes Sense For Organizations | JAMS

Here’s a question you may have asked yourself: “If we have internal conflict resolution procedures and people with HR and problem-solving skills, why would we need an outside person to help us manage conflicts?

This question is paramount when the JAMS Pathways team engages with organizations. Whether you’re working with an organization as a whole or with a particular division, our starting point is knowing your needs, challenges, resources and systems. We do a thorough analysis from the start exploring where things stand, what the objectives are, who the stakeholders are, what is working well and what is not. Our goal is not to supplant the processes already in place, but to understand the interests, identify the obstacles and chart a way forward that is suitable for your organization. We help you improve the system you have while stemming rising tensions so everyone can spend less time focusing on conflict and more time on the job.

Here are five ways external dispute resolvers like the JAMS Pathways team do this: we focus attention on the problem and your commitment to solving it; we bring expertise in dispute resolution (more than 40 years!); we promote organizational learning; we encourage perspective-taking; and we transfer the problem-solving task from your office to ours. Allow me to offer a little more detail on each of these aspects.


We focus our attention on the problem and the path to a solution. When faced with conflict, it is easy for organizations to split into camps: those on one side of the problem, those on the other side of the problem, and those in between. An organization that proactively involves external conflict resolvers elevates the perceived importance of issues and the organization’s commitment to resolving them. It focuses the organization: people start paying attention because the organization has sent a very clear message that this be careful. Rather than just one more meeting to rehash long-standing tensions and conflicts, interactions become facilitated opportunities to listen and learn from those with strong perspectives on issues and, more importantly, from those who find in the middle.


We bring over 40 years of experience focused on understanding problems and working with parties to identify solutions. And while we’ve resolved many conflicts, we don’t take a cookie-cutter approach to our work. We use our experience in designing problem-specific processes, managing difficult situations and people, and sequencing conversations and events to lay the groundwork for resolution. We determine who talks to whom, when it happens and what skills are needed to do so. From dealing with apologies and forgiveness to having difficult conversations, we provide training and skill-building workshops to empower teams to make the most of opportunities moving forward. .


We foster environments where people feel comfortable sharing and speaking up, informing a better understanding of the problem and a more comprehensive, holistic approach to resolution. Neutrality and confidentiality are essential here. We build trust in the neutrality and impartiality of a process because we have no interest in the outcome. Instead, we commit to solving the problem and, more specifically, developing a process to solve this problem. Confidentiality further strengthens our ability to connect differently with those affected by conflict. We start with a beginner’s mind and have the flexibility to structure confidential sharing opportunities that make sense for your organization, from one-on-one conversations to organization-wide meetings. Our commitment to confidentiality (with some exceptions) is reassuring for those who have always been candid, those who have been reluctant to speak up for fear of retaliation, and those who have found themselves in between.

perspective taking

We bring a different perspective due to our separation from the organization, which allows us to see conflict and resolution pathways differently than insiders. In addition, we elicit and encourage different perspectives among parties to conflict. We hear different points of view and challenge people to consider alternative explanations for what happened. We ask the hard questions, test assumptions, and guide parties to consider creative and integrative approaches without generating the defensiveness and resistance that insiders, even those deemed “neutral,” might elicit.

Problem solving

We make problem solving easy. Although HR has many responsibilities outside of conflict resolution, our only responsibility is to work with your organization to manage conflict. We know how to set agendas and schedules, run meetings and keep people engaged. We are flexible in adjusting approaches as new information is shared and new obstacles emerge. We are equipped to offer tools to manage conflict now and skills to build your team’s ability to manage differences more effectively in the future, with interventions often involving a range of approaches, from systems design to facilitation through training. Our responsiveness allows your team to spend time and energy managing conflict in the work ahead of them.

External dispute resolvers such as the JAMS Pathways team focus attention, contribute expertise, foster learning, encourage perspective taking, and facilitate problem solving. And once we’ve done all of those things, where does that take you? An organization reflecting on the impact of our work noted that we helped them overcome conflict, celebrate common interests and, through a process designed specifically for them, get back to talking about what matters most: their work.

Shirlene J. Manley