Restorative Justice as a tool for workplace conflicts

Our Restorative Justice Facilitators meet monthly to do training in preparation for different cases we may encounter.

In February Training will focus on  how restorative justice can benefit the work place as well as when it should or shouldn't be used.

We will be viewing the 20 minutes video, “Toxic Talk from betrayal to trust in a workplace” and do team buildings exercise that improves workplace communication, trust and collaboration from “The Big Book of conflict Resolution Games” (for Professionals) 

There is much value in using restorative practices in the workplace as well an in post secondary and university settings. 

Restorative Justice Online Facebook page is one of the best resources for information and opinions on what is happening in the world of restorative justice. 

The Alberta Restorative Justice Association is another great resource for new and developing programs.

See our links page.


"Following information taken from RJ Online Facebook Practices Posting.

Portions of an article from Tom Sebok's article at Workplace Bullying Institute:

 ....If laws and policies defining and prohibiting workplace bullying were established – especially if accompanied by awareness campaigns and/or training, it would probably help people develop a more common understanding of bullying behavior and its impacts. Anti-bullying laws and policies would define engaging in this behavior as wrongdoing.

The most common western approach to dealing with wrongdoing, especially in the criminal justice system, assumes the proper response is to determine: 1) whether any laws or policies have been violated, and if so, which ones; 2) who was guilty of violating them; and 3) what punishment should be administered for the violation(s). This assumption is rooted in the principles of retributive justice. But laws and policies could also set up the possibility of using an approach rooted in the principles of restorative justice.

Restorative justice conceives of wrongdoing as behavior that harms individuals and communities, rather than as violations against “the state.” For the purposes of this discussion, a restorative approach would focus on identifying:

1) who has been harmed by bullying; 2) exactly how she, he, or they were harmed; and 3) how to best repair that harm.

One restorative practice that might be used to address workplace bullying is victim offender mediation. An individual who engaged in bullying behavior and one who experienced it would meet together with a mediator to address the questions above and develop an agreement about what the person responsible could do to repair the harm she or he has done. Another restorative approach, based on family group conferencing, would include supporters (colleagues, friends, family members, etc.) of both victims and offenders, and other affected community members, which in this case is likely to be colleagues or bystanders, in a facilitated discussion. Both of these processes would result in agreements which, to the greatest extent possible, focus on repairing the harm done by bullying. And in both processes harm – especially psychological harm - is sometimes repaired as much or more by what occurs during the facilitated encounter as by the completion of agreement items by offenders.

 To make an informed decision about whether to participate in a restorative process, anyone accused of engaging in bullying would need to be informed that, as part of the process, she or he would be expected to: a) admit responsibility for engaging in this behavior directly to the person(s) harmed by it and b) answer specific questions in the mediation or conference, including questions such as:

• What were you thinking when you engaged in these behaviors?
• Who do you think your behavior affected?
• How do you think they were affected?
• What has happened for you since you were accused of violating the anti-bullying
policy (or law)?
• What are you thinking now about what has happened in this situation?
In addition, the person accused would need to understand that participation would require her or
him to listen to descriptions about the impacts of her or his behavior on the person(s) harmed by
them and collaborate with the person(s) harmed to create a plan for repairing the harm.
To assess the appropriateness of mediation in any situation, I have found that separate premediation
meetings with prospective participants are very useful.
I believe this practice would be critically important before bringing people together to discuss workplace bullying. Those who say they did not violate the policy or law should never be given a restorative option.
Instead, the matter should be investigated in an administrative procedure providing due process
rights and the opportunity for the accused person to defend herself or himself.
I recognize that, currently, people accused of bullying rarely view their own behavior as
inappropriate. I also recognize that most people subjected to these behaviors do not wish to
openly expose their pain to someone they perceive has harmed them. But the development of
laws and policies might help more people recognize and acknowledge responsibility for
engaging in this behavior. This, along with the willingness of those harmed to reveal how they
were harmed by it are prerequisites for attempting facilitated restorative encounters in situations
involving allegations of bullying. While, admittedly, these conditions significantly limit who can
participate in mediation, for those who meet them, they also set up the best chance for a
successful - perhaps even transformative - outcome.



Pamela MacKay