How to Use Restorative Justice in Your Organization

You may have heard the term “restorative justice” and thought about how it applies in a legal or educational context.

But let’s focus on a place where we spend a significant portion of our lives – our workplace. 

In organizations, conflicts are inevitable. But when addressed with a structured approach like restorative justice, conflicts can turn into constructive experiences that improve relationships and an organization’s culture.

Let’s dig into how restorative justice can help with conflict resolution in your organization.

What Is Restorative Justice?

Restorative justice is a system for repairing relationships by understanding and addressing the damage caused.

Restorative justice starts by involving all stakeholders, then proceeds to identify the harms caused, and ends with collaboratively finding ways to mend the situation and prevent reoccurrence.

Traditional conflict resolution methods focus on compromise or adjudication. It generally involves finding a mutually acceptable solution and often assumes a relatively balanced moral stance among parties.

Restorative justice, on the other hand, takes a holistic, healing-oriented approach. It’s not just about finding a resolution. It’s about restitution, rebuilding relationships and repairing harm.

An Example of Traditional Conflict Resolution vs. Restorative Justice

Think about a scenario where a team member takes credit for someone else’s work.

Traditional conflict resolution might involve reassigning credit or a reprimand.

In contrast, restorative justice would involve a dialogue to explore why it happened, how it affected team dynamics, and how to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Restorative justice would not only redirect credit, it would also address the breach of trust and its impact on a team’s relationships. Then it would explore interventions to prevent reoccurrence.

Differences Between Traditional Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice

Here are some bullets to further clarify the differences between traditional conflict resolution and restorative justice.

  • Traditionally, misconduct is treated as a violation of policy. In restorative justice, misconduct is treated as a violation of people and relationships.
  • Traditionally, we ask, “Who did this?” In restorative justice, we ask, “What are their needs?”
  • Traditionally, we focus on blame and punishment: “What does this person deserve?” Restorative justice focuses on repairing the harm: “What obligations do we have to help the offending party? And in turn, what responsibility will the offending party take to repair the harm?”

Tailoring Restorative Justice for Organizations

1. Assess the Situation

Every conflict doesn’t demand a restorative justice approach. Restorative justice makes sense for incidents that significantly breach organizational norms or trust, impacting interpersonal relationships and the organization’s harmony.

2. Involve Stakeholders

Involve those affected by the incident, including the ones who caused harm. This will ensure all perspectives are represented and acknowledged.

This isn’t a spectator sport. It’s a participatory process where every stakeholder contributes.

3. Facilitate Constructive Dialogue

Create a safe space where each stakeholder can voice their experience, impact, and needs.

Constructive dialogue roots itself in active listening, empathy, and non-judgmental communication.

4. Craft a Collaborative Resolution

Together, stakeholders formulate a plan to address harms, needs, and obligations.

This isn’t about compromise. It’s about generating solutions that repair relationships, resolve the situation, and create guidelines for future interactions.

5. Implement and Follow Up

The formulated plan must transition from paper to practice.

To ensure adherence and effectiveness, set up periodic check-ins to revisit the resolution. This will allow you to check that it’s working and adapt it as needed.

6. Close Loops and Learn

After you complete the restorative justice process, evaluate your process. This will provide insights and lessons that will help you respond to future incidents and preempt other potential conflicts.

How to Address Other Challenge through Restorative Justice

Restorative practices offer a holistic approach for addressing broader societal and personal issues with understanding, compassion, and unity. Here are a few examples.

Climate Challenges

Humanity, having abused Mother Earth for centuries, now finds itself at the receiving end of dire climatic conditions. Restorative justice, with its structured approach of acknowledgment, understanding, and remediation, can guide us in repairing our relationship with the environment. Simple actions like minimizing plastic use, advocating for recycling, or promoting water conservation can be elevated through the lens of restorative practices.

Gun Control

Our approach to gun control can benefit greatly from a restorative perspective. Drawing parallels with our regulations for automobiles—licensing, registration, age requirements—we can envision a more responsible and regulated approach to gun ownership. This is not about stripping rights but about creating a society where weapons and people coexist with mutual respect and responsibility.

Personal Relationships

On a more personal level, employing the tenets of restorative justice can save relationships—be it familial, romantic, or platonic. I’ve witnessed its power in mending relationships on the brink of collapse. With the right attitude that combines restorative practices with empathy, compassion, and forgiveness, life’s conflicts become less daunting.

Getting Started with Restorative Justice

Restorative justice is a philosophical pivot from punitive or compromise-based approaches to a more empathetic, healing, and collaborative methodology.

It demands that organizations engage in a deeper, sometimes uncomfortable, journey toward resolution. This journey transcends the superficiality of immediate solutions. It offers the opportunity to create a culture of empathy, accountability, and collective responsibility.

Please email me: What questions do you have about using restorative justice in the workplace?

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