20+ years of conflict management experience. Lawyer, ombuds, ADR/conflict resolution design and delivery.
Conflict = opportunity?
Effective conflict management starts with understanding the importance of early intervention and appropriate escalation. Conflict resolution approaches should be as unique as your organization.
My interest in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) began in law school in the late 1990s. I co-mediated several cases in the Vancouver Small Claims Court and began to appreciate that the spectrum of conflict resolution extended far beyond the courtroom. Articling and practicing corporate commercial litigation at a Bay Street law firm gave me insights into how time-consuming, disruptive and expensive legal proceedings could be for companies and individuals.
When I moved into a university ombuds role in 2005, not surprisingly, I felt a renewed sense of purpose. Through informal conflict coaching and diplomatic interventions we would help individuals to self-advocate and resolve their concerns. We would also use the power under the office’s mandate to formally investigate complaints about unfair decisions or processes, and in doing so, help the institution become more equitable, accessible and transparent.
These experiences all informed how I approached the challenge of creating a low-barrier, peer-centred, graduate conflict management program for the University of Toronto in 2015. The Graduate Conflict Resolution Centre was multi-disciplinary and inclusive – I coached, trained and shared conflict management best practices including restorative approaches, with faculty, staff and students from all disciplines and departments. Read more about working with peers to manage conflict in higher education in University Affairs.
“[Heather] is someone who brings good humour, empathy, and diplomacy to every interaction… Her commitment to diversity and inclusion is exemplary and so necessary within an academic institution.”Jessica Thorpe, PhD candidate, G2G Peer Advisor, 2018-2020