Dispute Resolution

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Dispute Resolution Process

TL;DR

If you have an interpersonal conflict with someone, and you can’t or won’t resolve it with them personally, this lays out a process in which we’ll provide mediators to help you both reach a solution. We’ll make sure the mediators have some training in conflict resolution and de-escalation, you get to say no to mediators you don’t think can be impartial. We don’t look at it in terms of ‘who wins’, but in terms of ‘what needs to happen so we can live with each other’s presence’.

Sounds cool, where do I sign up?

Intent

The intent of the dispute resolution process is to create a system in which interpersonal disputes that cannot or are not being resolved by the parties privately can be resolved by a panel of mediators who have agreed to be impartial, and have received training in dispute resolution and conflict de-escalation. The dispute resolution process is available not only to the administrator team, but also to players and mentors. The body of this document is not intended to be taken as ironclad rules for the process, as there are very few parts of it that can not be changed, so long as all involved parties agree to those changes and the changes are mentioned in the required summary. The solutions reached by the parties and the mediators should ideally be mutually beneficial, or at least tolerable - in no case will the mediator panel be empowered to remove a person from the admin team or the community. At most, they will be empowered to recommend that a person’s membership in the admin team or community be reviewed by other processes.

Definitions

  • PARTY / PARTIES: The persons directly involved in the interpersonal dispute.
  • ASSISTANTS: Persons that the parties directly involved in the interpersonal dispute bring with them to offer help. The assistants are able to speak for their relevant party in the event that the party is unwilling or unable to do so for themselves due to heightened emotional state or any other reason, provided the party specifically gives that permission.
  • MEDIATORS / MEDIATOR POOL: Persons who have undergone dispute resolution training and opted in to panel selection.
  • PANEL: Five mediators selected from the pool of available mediators, who have been approved by the parties.
  • INITIATING ADMIN: Member of the admin team who receives the request to begin the dispute resolution process, whose only role is to randomly select five mediators from the pool, present that list to the parties, and offer other mediators if either of the parties reject the potential mediator.
  • PROCEEDINGS: Refers to the discussions that are part of the dispute resolution process from initiation to conclusion.
  • NEGOTIATED SOLUTION: A solution to resolve the dispute that the parties come to and agree to by themselves.
  • ARBITRATED SOLUTION: A solution to resolve the dispute that the mediators come to, used only if negotiation fails.

General Outline

This is a general outline of the process. Specifics and other logistical concerns relevant to the process in general or a particular step in the process will be in the next section.

  1. INITIATION: When two or more people have an interpersonal dispute that either cannot be or isn’t being resolved by the parties themselves, any one of the parties can request dispute resolution by notifying any member of the admin team. That admin selects five members of the mediator pool and presents that list to the parties (and their assistants, if present). The parties are able to disqualify any given mediator if they or their assistants believe that the mediator is or is likely to be biased, at which point the initiating admin selects another candidate from the mediator pool. This continues until there is a panel of five mediators that all parties agree to.
  2. OPENING STATEMENTS: Each party (or assistant) presents their interpretation of the events leading up to and / or relevant to the dispute. Which party goes first is unimportant and can be chosen by a coin flip or any other means provided the parties agree to it. When presenting an opening statement, the party (or assistant) is understood to be the only person (or people, counting assistants) generally permitted to speak - mediators should only interject to caution against personal attacks, the opposing party (and their assistant) should remain quietly attentive.
  3. CROSS-EXAMINATION: Once all parties are satisfied they have presented their interpretation of events, all involved persons are permitted to challenge statements, request clarification, or otherwise argue the dispute. Mediators are requested to limit their questions to requesting clarification on unclear statements, and are specifically discouraged from expressing opinions or otherwise stating or implying bias or favor for one party over the others. Mediators may, if they choose, encourage the parties to ‘agree to disagree’ if a particular point of contention is dominating conversation, unlikely to reach a conclusion in a reasonable time, and not a key part of the dispute.
  4. NEGOTIATION: Once all parties are satisfied that they have answered all questions or challenges to their own statements, and have in turn had their questions or challenges to opposing statements addressed, the parties negotiate for a solution. The solution should reach the standard of ‘this is what needs to happen for us to coexist in a civil fashion’ at minimum, with ‘this is what needs to happen for us to be friends’ a hopeful, but possibly unattainable, goal. The role of the mediators at this point is to assist with retrieving information ‘lost in scrollback’, police the tone of the proceeding and call out / discourage personal attacks, and to provide unbiased input relating to assisting the parties in reaching a solution. Mediators should exercise care to make sure they are not expressing opinions that favor one party over the other - answering truthfully if asked if one party has issued more personal attacks than the other during the proceedings is fine, giving opinions to the magnitude of personal attacks or the validity of one party’s case over the others is very much not fine.
  5. ARBITRATION: If the parties are unable to reach a solution they can agree to and ask for the mediators to decide a solution, or if negotiation has proceeded for 24 hours and the mediators do not have faith that that further negotiation will be fruitful, the mediators can, after announcing to the parties that they will do so, discuss among themselves the facts of the dispute and reach a solution themselves. This discussion must be in a format that can be relayed verbatim to the parties at the end of the proceeding. The mediators are still expected to perform their mediation duties in the proceedings during this discussion. Once the mediators have arrived at a solution, they will announce to the parties that they have done so, but not disclose the solution yet. The mediators will then ask the parties to try again to negotiate a solution. The arbitrated solution is not revealed to the parties unless EITHER all parties agree that further negotiation would be fruitless and agree to use the arbitrated solution, OR at least one of the parties does so and either eight hours of negotiation have passed since the existence of the arbitrated solution was announced or 48 hours have passed since the announcement.
  6. SUMMARY: Once either a negotiated or an arbitrated solution has been reached, the negotiators will work with the parties to summarize the proceedings. Summaries may be available to different audiences, so thought should be given to what level of detail is made available. Summaries should be stored where the relevant people are reasonably able to access them - the forums are an excellent example for this, though the wiki would also work for summaries intended to be visible to players.
  7. POST-PROCEEDING INPUT: Any given member of the admin team may, if they choose, ask any party to the dispute or the mediators serving on the panel for that dispute, their opinions on how well the process worked and suggestions for improvement. The member of the admin team that does so should be careful to avoid questions that would reveal anything relating to the proceedings that was not included in the summary, and should as a matter of fairness ask all persons involved in the process, be they parties, assistants, or mediators.


Specifics and Logistical Concerns

Relevant to entire process:

  • People who want to be in the mediator pool join the pool by completing training in dispute resolution (please screenshot your passing test score!) and conflict de-escalation (this video is a good starting point, and prospective mediators should view it and feel free to seek out any other information about conflict de-escalation and share those resources with others).
    • Note: You should be a player for at least three months!
    • We might not accept you as a mediator if we have reason to believe you wouldn't be a good fit!
    • Admins are ineligible to be mediators but are highly encouraged to complete this training.
  • Discussion between the initiating admin and the parties, and the proceedings themselves, can take place in any venue which the parties and mediators agree to. Special channels on the Goonstation Discord server and group-chats in any form are equally acceptable, the only real criteria is that it must be a venue in which all involves parties, their assistants, and the mediators are able to participate in equally - no one person involved should have any ability to communicate or alter the communications of others that is not shared among all people involved in the proceeding.
  • The only parts of the process that are ‘carved in stone’ and not subject to change are the following:
    • The mediator panel must be an odd number greater than one
    • Any discussion by the mediators to arrive at an arbitrated solution must be loggable and presentable in its entirety to the parties if the parties request it
    • Some form of a summary, which must include any deviation from the guidelines, must be agreed to by the parties and made available
    • Any other aspect is subject to change if and only if all parties and the mediator panel agrees to it.
  • As a condition to having their dispute heard by a mediator panel, parties must agree to the following:
    • Avoid personal attacks, character attacks, and other forms of bad-faith participation
    • A party will be excluded from speaking during the proceedings if the mediator panel agrees unanimously that the party is continuing to act in bad faith despite numerous attempts to warn the party against bad-faith participation. In this case, the party’s assistant will speak for them. If an assistant was not selected, or if the assistant is also excluded, the party will be asked to name a different assistant
    • Follow whatever solution is negotiated by the parties or an arbitrated solution if a negotiated solution can not be reached
  • If during the proceedings, one of the parties claims one of the mediators is biased, the other mediators will vote on whether or not the claim is valid. A majority or a tie will result in that mediator being removed, and a new mediator selected. If more than one party claims a mediator is biased, that mediator will be removed and a new mediator selected. If more than one mediator is claimed to be biased, the entire panel is removed and any member of the admin team will assist in coming up with a new panel of mediators which might or might not include mediators from the initial panel that did not have their impartiality questioned.
  • The ability for negotiated or arbitrated solutions to ‘punish’ one or more of the parties to the dispute is very limited - a negotiated or arbitrated solution can not, under any circumstances, remove a person from the admin team or the community by itself, it can only recommend their membership in the admin team or the community be reviewed under whatever process exists for those processes. Public apologies should also not be used, as a forced apology is usually an insincere one. Instead of removal, consider the following alternatives:
    • One or more of the parties agrees not to speak in a relevant channel for a defined period. This is easily enforceable with Discord roles, and any given Discord server admin has the ability to adjust roles as necessary to enforce this, and restore a party’s ability to use channels to their initial state once the defined time interval is done.
    • One or more of the parties agrees to voluntarily remove themselves from the admin team or the community for a defined time interval not to exceed two weeks.

Relevant to specific steps:

  • Relevant to step one: The process can also be initiated by a bystander, in the case of an interpersonal dispute that is significantly impacting either team functionality or the general peace of the server.
  • Relevant to step five: The purpose of withholding the nature of the arbitrated solution at first, and encouraging further negotiation, is to put ‘time pressure’ on the parties in hopes of encouraging a negotiated solution - the parties know that a solution exists, which they might or might not like, so they will have a vested interest in reaching a negotiated solution that might or might not be more favorable to them.
  • Relevant to step six: For instance, if the dispute is between two members of the admin team, and the resolution is that one of the parties agrees to not speak in a given offtopic admin channel for a defined interval, the player-viewable summary would not necessarily need to include the details of which channel and for how long the party has agreed to stay out of. Conversely, a dispute between two players that is resolved when one player agrees to steer clear of the other ingame might include in an admin-viewable summary the BYOND keys of the players to assist the admin team in making sure the agreement is held to.


Administration Policies
Staff guidelines and expectations: Admin Guidelines · Mentor Guidelines
Community policies: Dispute Resolution