Interest-based problem-solving is a collaborative approach to solving problems in the workplace. It can be used to deal with existing workplace disputes and to pre-empt future ones.
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The approach aims to resolve problems by focusing on interests. Traditional approaches to workplace issues focus on positions.
Positions are demands or claims for things that a party thinks will make a problem go away.
Interests are the things underlying any request or demand.
An interest-based approach involves the people who are affected by the problem. Collaboration between all the stakeholders allows for more perspectives and a fuller picture of the issues at hand and can lead to a more diverse set of possible solutions: overwhelmingly, this leads to better outcomes.
Interest-based problem-solving can help workplaces:
- innovate and find better and more creative solutions
- form stronger ongoing relationships between the parties, built on trust and respect
- gain a greater acceptance amongst affected parties of necessary change
- improve flexibility and problem-solving capacity in the workplace.
How to take an interest-based approach to solving problems
When a goal or issue arises:
- Gather the parties together. This includes anyone affected by the goal or issue as well as any representatives.
- Clarify and agree on the problem so that everyone is on the same page.
- Identify the interests of the stakeholders.
- Brainstorm and come up with possible solutions to the problem.
- Test the possible solutions against a set of criteria (for example, is the possible solution affordable, is it legal, is it in keeping with company values, etc).
- Finally, the parties together should choose the outcome that will best achieve the goal or solve the problem.
Is interest-based problem-solving right for your workplace?
Employers and employees who have a good relationship should consider interest-based problem-solving.
The main requirements for interest-based problem-solving are creativity and teamwork. Ii involves a high level of information-sharing and genuine communication, so trust and respect between the parties is important.
Interest-based problem-solving is harder in workplaces where relationships are strained or where there is distrust between management and staff. However, it can be also be a way of improving difficult relationships.
How to get started
Our interest-based problem-solving guide sets out how to adopt the approach, including our suggested model for how to work through any given issue or problem.
Learn more about the interest-based approach by completing our online learning modules on interest-based bargaining, available through our Online Learning Portal.
We also offer support through our Cooperative Workplaces program. The program is for workplaces that want to try interest-based approaches. A Commission Member will work with you to deliver training and help you facilitate the process. They will also offer guidance and advice as you make the change to using an interest-based approach. The program is free.