Cornell University

May 3 2013

Researching Conflict Management

Scheinman Institute follows up on federal agency system it helped create

Todd Dickey MS '13; David Lipsky '61, director, Scheinman Institute on Conflict ResolutionFor his master's thesis, Ph.D. student Todd Dickey is researching the integrated conflict management system at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The system, one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the federal government, was designed a decade ago with assistance from three ILR faculty members. It is one of many such programs that the Martin and Laurie Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution has helped create for federal and state governments and private sector organizations.

Integrated conflict management systems—an outgrowth of the alternative dispute resolution movement—take a strategic, proactive approach to managing conflict in the workplace.

In 2010, just as Dickey was beginning his studies at ILR, the Scheinman Institute launched a study of alternative dispute resolution in federal agencies. The project was tailor-made for Dickey, who had worked at the Federal Trade Commission for several years before starting graduate school.

"One of the things I most appreciate about ILR is the connection among research, outreach and practice," says Dickey. The initial work done by Professor David Lipsky, Rocco Scanza and others at the Scheinman Institute has made my life as a researcher extraordinarily rich.

"The Department of the Interior and its unions have been extremely helpful, because they see the value of academic research and how it ties into what they are doing. They're going to actually use my work – it won't solely appear in a journal," says Dickey, who has been asked to present his findings to the department's labor-management forum.

Ultimately, he hopes to provide a model for how conflict management systems can flourish in unionized workplaces.