Restorative justice is a process for achieving justice that helps to restore the dignity of all people involved in a wrong-doing and puts into place a framework for all people involved to have the opportunity to share in their mutual human development.

Restorative justice is most often associated with criminal justice as a framework for rethinking crime and punishment. The foundational principle of restorative justice is the care and respect of humanity. This means that when a wrong or harm has taken place, the respect for all individuals guides the process for making right the wrong.

In considering how to right the wrong, a restorative justice process takes into consideration the needs of the person or persons who was harmed, the individual(s) who created the harm and their communities. The needs of the harmed person(s) are at the center of the justice process. The person who caused the harm is held accountable and responsible for righting the wrong and seeking opportunities for restitution. And the needs of the community are also included in the justice process. Restorative justice acknowledges that community members have roles to play in ensuring justice, and they may also have responsibilities to the individual who was harmed, the individual who created the harm and to themselves. Read this article to learn more about the needs of each group.

Three principles shape a restorative justice process:

  1. Crime (or a wrong-doing) is a violation of people and interpersonal relationships
  2. Violations create obligations
  3. The central obligation is to put right the wrongs

The following graphic demonstrates the current view of achieving justice in a western criminal justice process as compared to a restorative justice process.

Two Views
This graphic demonstrates the three questions each view seeks to answer:

Three different questions

Implementing a restorative justice process in the workplace offers a similar point of view and asks similar questions. By simply reframing the criminal justice perspective to a workplace perspective, a new framework for managing workplace conflict emerges. The graphic below represents the current view of workplace conflict as compared to the restorative justice view.

Workplace Conflict 2 Views

By answering the following three questions, one can easily see how a restorative justice process optimizes employee engagement by placing the care of all individuals at the center of the conflict management process.

Workplace Conflict 3 Questions

Replacing the traditional process for managing complaints, grievances and policy violations with a restorative justice model demonstrates to employees that their needs, their development and their concerns are respected by the workplace community and that opportunities for human growth and development exist. A restorative justice model for managing conflict deepens employee understanding of one another, instills trusts, and therefore, increases employee engagement.

If you are looking for a more effective and human-centric process for managing workplace conflict in your organization, engaging a third-party consultant proficient in restorative justice systems design can bring about positive and lasting change.

Robyn Short is a mediator with expertise in transformative mediation and restorative justice models for dispute resolution. Whether in a corporate, nonprofit, academic or home environment, Robyn assists parties in discovering the root causes of their conflicts, so they may transform their relationships and create new and productive paths forward individually and as teams. Robyn helps organizations through mediation, facilitation, onsite conflict training seminars, leadership training and dialogue circles. Learn more at www.RobynShort.com.