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Neutral assessment moves things forward

A guest blog by Liz McCaw

Learning & Development 15th August 2013

“As a highly qualified HR professional/senior manager, I am paid to be able to get to the core of any conflict situation and understand how to move it forward”

“So why would I want a Neutral Assessment?”

But that is the issue!  You are close to all of the parties involved.  You may understand exactly why the team involved has got to the unhappy place it now finds itself in (or you may not!). You may have a strong view on where next.  But you are part of that system, will have a perspective shaped by that system and will be seen to have that perspective.

When conflict threatens to derail the focus and performance of a team, there is a lot of listening to be done.  Listening not only to understand each individual’s position and interests, but also to start the process of helping people to move on.  More listening than you probably have time for.

The people I interviewed while carrying out a neutral assessment for CMP Resolutions recently were surprised at how therapeutic it was to articulate their thoughts and emotions to someone completely outside the situation.  They believed that they had been genuinely listened to and that their views were valued.  They were clear that they would not have talked to an internal person with the same openness.  Things started to look different for them as they talked, and so they started to shift from maintaining a position to wanting a solution to the pain and upset they were experiencing.

In complex conflicts it is not a case of identifying a specific cause and taking a straightforward course of action.  The situation is likely to have built up over months and even years, with ever-increasing layers of emotion.  The more people involved, the greater the mix of interpretations about past actions, motivations and behaviour and fears about the consequences of future actions and behaviours.  The ‘right’ solution may have unintended consequences if these have not been fully explored and understood.  And, more likely, there is no ‘right’ solution, only a series of options with different risks attached.

Bringing in an outsider to put a key in the ignition and make their objective assessment of what those options might be is the best way to start the car moving again

So, while ‘neutral’ is a word that implies little momentum, neutral is also a gear that has to be moved through to get out of reverse.