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Informal Process for Resolving Disagreements

Have you wondered what an informal process means and how it works?  This brief explanation will describe what it is, who can use it, why it is a priority at the University of Rochester, and how it works.  The goal is to encourage you to consider using an informal process with the University Intercessor in the event that you are involved in a situation that you want to resolve and have not yet been able to do so.

What Is It?
The informal process is a means of resolving conflicts and disagreements through dialogue, collaborative problem-solving and restorative mediation practices. In general it is a choice made before an individual files a formal complaint or grievance (Policy 106 or Policy 160, for example).

Why Choose an Informal Process?
Over time, informal processes foster respectful, healthy, inclusive, and productive academic/work places and relationships. Those who engage in an informal process may benefit from participation in another way: they experience the active listening, dialogue, and conflict resolution skills that they may employ in many other areas of their lives in the future. 

Who Can Use the Informal Process?
The University empowers its Intercessors to offer the option of an informal process to any individual at the University.  The only step is contacting an Intercessor and asking for assistance.

How the Informal Process Works
The informal process starts with a request from you. 

In the event that you find yourself in a situation where you are unsure how to proceed or how best to resolve an issue, you may call or email an Intercessor. From the very start, your interactions with the Intercessor will be held in confidence (private, not shared with anyone without your prior knowledge). A phone or face-to-face meeting is typically arranged so that you can freely discuss the situation, the steps you have already taken, the obstacles or challenges you have been dealing with, the options open to you, and the outcome you desire. Together, you and the Intercessor will discuss options you might consider and when appropriate, a plan of action. 

Because each individual’s situation is unique, your options will be tailored to your needs and desired outcome.  However, three options are chosen rather frequently by individuals:

  • authorizing the Intercessor to speak with the other people involved in a given situation to understand their side of the story
  • calling the parties together and facilitating a dialogue aimed at amicably resolving the issue or reaching consensus about a means for equitably resolving the situation
  • coaching you to refine the decision-making, communication, and interpersonal skills related to the trigger situation.

Some individuals meet once or twice with the Intercessor; others might engage longer. The overall goal of the Intercessor is to facilitate an acceptable resolution to the problem or situation for all those who are involved. 

In some cases, however, an individual might decide that a formal process of complaint or grievance is preferable.  At that point, the informal process would probably stop and a formal process would be initiated (see Policy 106, Policy 160).