Alternate dispute resolution program heals workplace disputes

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Aaron Thomoasson

We are all born different. We have different thoughts, different backgrounds, and different frames of reference when we look at the world. Our methods of interpreting our environment are different from person to person, and it’s these differences that both make us who we are and, unfortunately, create conflict between us. Given the vast spectrum of human personalities, it’s no surprise then that conflict often arises in the most mundane places.

For example, you might call to mind the roommate who used your shared microwave to heat up fish for lunch. To you, it seemed reasonable that your living space shouldn’t smell like a fish market. On the other hand, to them it seemed only right that they should enjoy their tuna melt. Because each person views themselves as the justified party in the conflict, neither one is willing to back down from their position and seek a joint solution.

            Nightmare roommates are an example from our lives outside of work, but every day in the office we face situations that require both parties to compromise and seek joint solutions. Often it’s a small disagreement, but sometimes larger problems can arise and damage workplace relationships if the correct tools have not been given to handle these situations. When this happens, where can we turn for help?

            One place is the Air Force’s Alternate Dispute Resolution Program.  This program is part of an Air Force initiative to help Air Force active duty, civilians, and dependents to resolve workplace disputes at the lowest possible level; before the problem reaches a point where it can only be resolved in court. Created by the Administrative Dispute Resolution Act of 1966, ADR is an umbrella term that encompasses many different ways to resolve disputes, conflicts, or misunderstandings throughout the federal government. Services such as mediation and facilitation are some of the avenues pursued through ADR.

            From August 28th to 31st, 2017, the 501st Combat Support Wing hosted a seminar available to USAFE personnel to learn, practice and improve mediation techniques. As a student in this course I learned mediation is a structured process in which a qualified mediator acts as a neutral party to assist two or more individuals resolve issues or concerns affecting their work environment through the use of uninterrupted discussion, fostering understanding, and developing options for mutual gain.

            EO complaints, unfair labor practices, administrative, union, or management grievances are all issues that may be resolved through the ADR process if addressed in its early stages. Mediation encourages the resolution of problems at the lowest level and ensures that federal law and Air Force policies are maintained.

Upon identifying a workplace issue, and after attempting to resolve the dispute through the chain of command, a civilian or military employee may contact the Wing ADR manager or an Equal Opportunity counselor about initiating the ADR program.

Workplace disputes disrupt morale and productivity when left unaddressed. Mediation, and the ADR process, ensure every Pathfinder, and Airman across Europe, are provided with the skills to work through intrapersonal issues while maintaining the level of dignity and respect all Airmen deserve.

For further information about the ADR program, visit or contact the Wing ADR Manager, Mr. Kevin Carrico at 268-1256.