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Peer Mediation Teams As a Way to Resolve Conflict in the PSAP

Author: Sue Pivetta

Date: 2015-03-06
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A Comm Center is a human place and strangely enough Trainers are humans and so are Trainees.  And in any 'human' place there is an us and there is a them. We can talk about us as the individual, or us as the shift, or us as the call takers, or dispatchers. There is them or us as trainers, supervisors, officers, citizens.  

What we want to explore here is how unresolved conflict in a Comm Center affects the trainee and their ability to survive and thrive.  The simple definition of Comm Center conflict is when people don't get their needs met or heard.  Lack of agency conflict management can result in people holding resentment, dissatisfaction, high turnover and lost opportunities for needed change.  

Even temporary unresolved conflict can eventually grow into the toxic atmospheres that can choke the creativity and safety of a learning environment.  You may think the trainee isn't aware of the subtle conflict or the behind the doors negativity and you would be wrong.  Trainees have very sensitive feelers as they are vulnerable at this time and in need of special care, support, or protection from distractions.

Peer Mediation Teams in the Comm Center

The cost of resolving conflict is insignificant relative to the cost of leaving conflicts unresolved. Satisfied staff produce quality results, seek solutions not problems, are creative, innovative and enjoy working together. They enjoy being part of a successful organization and feel proud of what they, and their team members, achieve.

In an environment where people feel safe to communicate feelings, confidence and respect for each other grows. A positive work environment that produces great results attracts and retains high performing employees. Therefore it makes sense to have a defined process for dealing with conflict such as the Peer Mediation model.

Many administrators do not know where to start to create a better environment. One solution is to create a Peer Mediation Team. This is a proposal for implementation of a Peer Mediation Team. We believe that peer meditation teams have been proven to create a positive effect on: 1 retention 2 absenteeism and staff turnover rates 3 sick leave use 4 employee satisfaction 5 number and costs of employee relationship breakdowns 6 employee and organizational development 7 employee/administration communication channels.

Mediation will not be useful for problems associated with violation of policy or procedures or acts that can be defined as poor work or violation of ethics. The development process will determine what the mediation team will mediate. One example may be difficult behavior. Difficult behavior can inhibit performance in others and will only deteriorate if left alone. Such behavior can take many forms; negativity, rudeness, yelling, shunning, mobbing, gossiping, refusing to talk to or acknowledge others, harassing, incessant complaining to supervisors, ignoring directives, and abusing equipment. A basic problem in communication lies not so much in conflicting positions, but in the conflict between each person’s needs, desires, concerns, and fears. Mediation addresses these issues.

Many agencies try to resolve disputes with teambuilding sessions. Ongoing teambuilding and workshops that fail to meet the real needs of staff simply add frustration and can even fuel conflicts. Mediation uncovers real needs, emotions and facilitates deep communications. This process of Peer Mediation has a history of success if monitored and evaluated as designed. Unresolved conflict costs workplaces enough without the added cost of ineffective or misdirected solutions. We believe that the Peer Mediation model and process proposed here is an effective and efficient method for designing a quality long life dispute resolution program for any workplace.*


Can Trust Be Revived?

No one goes to work to be unhappy, but some people are.  With some unhappy employees, being a victim is a lifestyle.  Still even mature workers can feel 'devalued' if their needs are not heard.  Some leaders work hard to be the mediator and bring all factions together yet trust seems to be so very slooooow to return.  With a purposeful move towards understanding, recognizing and valuing the benefits of conflict resolution and management - your leadership says that indeed you are valued and through mediation those needs are heard. 

So then, what actual processes are in place to transform conflict into a positive way to understand, solve, learn, and change? Trainees must trust they are in good hands and that their new agency will care for their needs too.  I know many agencies have conflict resolution processes in place for valuing their most wonderful asset.  The result is lower turnover and improved workplace satisfaction. 

Sometimes - no matter how hard a new leader tries -  it's a long slow road to correct historical wrongs or build whole systems approaches to those things that seem to be the 'nature of the animal'.  Are there processes that can do the seemingly impossible of bringing about lasting peace and cooperation? Yes, and this begins by believing conflict resolution can lead to; improved retention, safer training environment, improved shift and agency relationships, expanded understanding of one another and moving people towards a mature ability to interact with others peacefully. **


*For more information on setting up a Peer Mediation Team in your Comm Center, download Pivetta’s white paper, Peer Mediation Comm Center Team Outline, from which this column is partuially extracted.

**For more information , read Pivetta’s article on The Death of Trust in the APCO Canada “Wavelength” magazine


Sue Pivetta is a former 9-1-1 Supervisor and vocational college instructor.  Sue has a BA from Antioch University in Adult Learning.  She is the creator of many critical thinking training products for 9-1-1 call taking.  She is the author of The Exceptional Trainer book and workshop and has created a series of 10 Adult Learning downloadable trainings.  All products and workshops can be found at


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