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 each person involved to have the opportunity to share in their mutual human development. Restorative practices was born out of the restorative justice discipline.

The foundational guidepost of all restorative practices is the care and respect of the community and individuals in which the harm is situated. 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 approach considers the needs of the person or persons harmed, the individual(s) who created the harm and their shared communities — in the workplace the community would likely be the team of individuals with whom each party works most closely. The needs of the harmed person(s) are at the center of the restorative process. The person who caused the harm is held accountable and responsible for righting the wrong and seeking opportunities for restitution. The needs of the team members are also included in the restorative process. Any structural elements within the organization that have cultivated a culture permissive of wrong-doing is also considered in the restorative approach.

Implementing restorative practices in the workplace requires a paradigm shift in how we think about and respond to wrong-doing in the workplace. The first shift is to view “wrong-doing” as a violation of relationships as opposed to the violation of policy. When we view wrong-doing as a policy violation, the obvious response is punitive. When we view wrong-doing as a violation of professional relationships, we are able to make the next shift — the obligation to restore the relationship by putting right the wrong and repairing the harm that resulted. The central focus is caring for the needs of all parties affected by the harm and restoring the relationships between the person who caused the harm and the person(s) harmed.

A restorative model for managing conflict deepens employee understanding of one another, instills trusts, and therefore, increases employee engagement.

Replacing the traditional process for managing complaints, grievances and policy violations with a restorative 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.

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 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.