CSS Civilian Mediator touts Benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution Program

Story Number: NNS140711-02Release Date: 7/11/2014 1:10:00 AM

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (AW/SW) Shawn D. Graham, Center for Service Support Public Affairs

NEWPORT, R.I. (NNS) -- Center for Service Support's (CSS) senior Workplace Alternative Dispute Resolution Program (ADR) mediator talked about his keys to successfully mitigating workplace conflicts and disputes July 10.

Retired Command Master Chief (SW) Ben Witcher said many people don't realize the Navy has mediators for its ADR Program.

"ADR provides an alternative to other formal dispute processes, and encourages employees to resolve their conflict in more of an informal setting and at a lower level," said Witcher. "When successful, ADR helps Department of the Navy (DoN) employees resolve their disputes relatively quickly and at a much lower cost than other alternatives. ADR in the Navy helps employees and supervisors resolve their conflict and get back to what is important to all of us; accomplishing the mission."

ADR was introduced in 1999 as a voluntary and confidential process for Navy civilian employees to informally resolve workplace grievances.

The program is based on the four standards of the "Conflict Management and Mediation Model" (CM3), which are: sufficient staff with ADR training; promotion of conflict management techniques; use of best practices in facilitative mediation; and tracking and reporting ADR events. The ADR program uses proven conflict management techniques that bring managers and employees to the table in the presence of a neutral third party, a certified mediator, who focuses on the process of helping employees, reach solutions that are agreeable to everyone involved.

According to Witcher, his Navy experience also played a key role in his success as a mediator and mentor.

"I've been working for the U.S. Navy for 36 years as a Sailor, contractor and a Navy civilian," said Witcher. "My broad range of experience coupled with myriad Navy training opportunities has been invaluable in understanding human nature and behavior across cultures."

Witcher said he learned about the ADR program in 2010 and since then, became certified as Navy Mediator and then Mentor Mediator.

"The job of a Navy Certified Mediator is to encourage and facilitate the resolution of a dispute between two or more people," said Witcher. "We help disputing parties reach a mutually acceptable and voluntary agreement by providing a confidential, informal, private, non-adjudicative and non-adversarial process. The mediator assists the participants with identifying issues, fostering joint problem solving, and exploring settlement opportunities in a neutral environment."

Witcher said some of his mediations are emotionally charged but helping people exchange thoughts and an ideas about their conflict has a therapeutic, almost calming effect.

"Most people just want to be heard and the Navy ADR Program affords them that opportunity," said Witcher. It's important to hear both sides equally and objectively. All human beings want to know that their opinions and thoughts matter."

The ADR program is beneficial to managers and employees alike through its capacity to resolve workplace issues at the lowest level, its ability to improve morale by allowing open dialogue between parties in a non-threatening environment and its potential to avoid litigation costs and associated lost work time.

"The Navy has many great programs available to assist civilian employees," said Witcher. "Information sharing is the best way to ensure all of our employees take advantage of the many programs available to help them be successful in their lives and careers."

CSS and its learning sites provide Sailors with the knowledge and skills needed to support the fleet's warfighting mission. More than 300 staff and faculty work hand-in-hand with the fleet and are dedicated to ensure training is current and well executed on behalf of 10,000 Sailors who graduate from CSS courses annually in the administration, logistics and media communities.

For more news from Center for Service Support, visit www.navy.mil/local/css/.

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