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ADR, from every perspective

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- What is the importance of Alternative Dispute Resolution? When people are stressed or emotional, it often becomes difficult to be objective. The ADR office was implemented to assist employees and managers in a conflict with a safe, neutral forum where individuals can comfortably discuss their issues rather than have a third party impose a decision. Mediation allows the parties to construct their own remedies.

When it comes to choosing a complaint process which one is best? The truth of the matter is no process is 100 percent guaranteed. Each has its pros and cons. Every complaint is different and individual needs will vary.

Alternative Dispute Resolution is an added bonus to the EO and Grievance process. Since April of this year, ADR no longer mediates grievances, in accordance with the new Master Labor Agreement for at least one year. However, bargaining unit employees can still access the program through the EO process.

Advantages of ADR can be seen from every angle. Today, in the first of three articles, we will explore the benefits of ADR from an employee's perspective.
Employee's Perspective:

Why elect the ADR process versus the formal process? One favorable option is the length of time complaints take to process through the system. The ADR office surveyed some of the clients (due to confidentiality we have not included their names) that have used the program, and this is why ADR is their preferred method.

"Time constraints; I know by experience that the traditional process can take six months to two years, by then situations have changed and bitterness and resentment has settled in." Length of the formal processes remains to be a concern for not only the supervisors but the employees.

"ADR gives a person a chance to resolve issues at the lowest level and at the earliest stage. It gives management a new perspective of problems in an area or what may be problems that can be addressed early to benefit all the Air Force."

When the word communication is mentioned, most people automatically think of a verbal exchange of information. The truth is, listening is just as important to communication as speaking. When clients are in a mediation room there are no cell phones, computers, or other distractions allowed.

"Through ADR I had a chance to get my case heard before too much time has passed. If months go by without someone hearing me I feel I am not valued." In mediation both parties are given an uninterrupted time to present their side of the story. Everyone at the table is focused on one thing and that is the issue at hand.

It is hard to look at things objectively when you are personally involved in a conflict. "Mediators are able to bring forth questions that you may want to ask but you have a brain fog. They help you feel like someone is really hearing what you say and may help you express yourself a little more. Having a neutral party also helps alleviate some of the anxiety that may be felt."

Mediators not only assist the parties with objectivity, but they also help keep things focused. "I think having a neutral party involved was the best part of the process. They keep you on point, and if emotions start to get in the way the mediators help diffuse the situation. Mediators assist individuals understand what the other party is saying or what they may be offering as well as options you may not be aware of. But most of all, ADR really works!"

Although mediators do not give advice or make decisions, using a mediator is like going to a friend with a problem, they are usually able to help. "The neutral party helped me keep focus on my remedy and my situation. The third party also assisted me in understanding that I am valued and my words are valued."

Not all complaints will settle, regardless of what process you choose. Mediation gives you the opportunity to be heard in an uninterrupted atmosphere. Stay tuned next week for the second installment of "ADR, From a Supervisor's Perspective" on the Alternative Dispute Resolution process. If you have questions about the ADR process, call 736-2151 or visit post 1AD83A Bldg. 3001.