Volume 4, Number 1, Oct. 2003
Developing Departmental Communication Protocols
The development of these “Protocols” has been
effective in addressing both the reluctance of departments
who are more comfortable with an initial indirect approach
to problem solving, as well as, insuring that individuals
returning to a department have a greater chance of making
the implementation of their agreement successful.
Process for Development of a Communication Protocol
The manager of a department notifies those who will be attending
of the time, date and location of the two to three hour session.
The purpose of the session typically is described as follows:
The purpose of this session is for the group to develop
a “Communication Protocol” for all employees
in the department to use, when appropriate, for respectful
communication and effective conflict management. Using material
provided the group will develop a set of guidelines (Protocol)
that reflects the culture and needs of each of us as individuals
or those of our group. Once the session is completed, a
draft will be circulated to the group for additional comment.
Once this comment period has ended, the remarks will be
incorporated, and the new “Protocol” will be
distributed, posted on the department’s bulletin boards,
and provided to all employees as part of their orientation.
It should be seen as an evolving document that will be periodically
revised on an annual basis to reflect the evolving needs
of our staff.”
Normally, the session is mandatory, since it is during normal
work hours, and does not take on involuntary discussion of
any specific individual’s problems, complaints or grievances.
The session is usually away from the regular work location.
and going during the session is not permitted. This is particularly
important regarding the participation by the organization’s
management. Such behavior is typically seen as an indication
that the session is not important.
The two or three hours session for developing a “Protocol”
is divided into three subsections.
Protocol Process: Subsection One
The first subsection begins by asking attendees to “think
of the name of an individual in your organization who causes
problems.” After a brief period for reflection, the
participants are asked “who has thought of their own
name?” Typically no one has. This initial question begins
a process for self-examination of how each person may contribute
to problems in the organization. This is followed by a discussion
of various definitions of conflict, ending with a customer
service definition, suggesting that complaints are important
“gifts of information”, necessary to allow for
change. The soon to be developed “protocol” is
described at this point as a mechanism or set of ground rules
for “giving (or receiving) the gift of information”.
The section then turns to a discussion of the “stages
of conflict”. This discussion allows participants to
see how conflict becomes individually and/or institutionally
dysfunctional, including the development of “camps”.
This latter point allows for a discussion of how mediation
agreements are sometimes undermined by an individual’s
friends within their camp, who may resist the reduction of
conflict, if it is seen as devaluing the friendship, demonstrated
by new behavior which is friendlier with the “enemy”.