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Agricultural Labor Management – Conflict Management: A New Approach

The Issue

Despite the enormous strides made in modern negotiation and conflict management theory, practitioners sometimes find themselves floundering. In the traditional approach, mediators bring the contending parties together where each has the opportunity to explain his or her side while the other side listens. In reality, this approach often increases the contention between the stakeholders. Also, in this traditional approach mediators tend to take a very active part in the process, where stakeholders talk to the other party through the mediator rather than addressing each other directly. One of the concerns with this conventional approach is that mediators often take on the role of arbitrator in the process.

What Has ANR Done?

Gregory Billikopf, agricultural labor management farm advisor, developed a model that increases the chances that deep-seated interpersonal organizational differences can yield creative and positive outcomes. The model helps facilitators understand factors that affect the likelihood of success, so a more informed decision can be made as to whether to accept an invitation to mediate. The model is based on the concept of separate meetings between the mediator and the stakeholders before bringing these parties together into a joint meeting.

The results of the study were published in Group Facilitation: A Research and Applications Journal, Number 4, Spring 2002, pp. 3-11. The paper was entitled, “Contributions of Caucusing and Pre-Caucusing to Mediation.” See http://www.cnr.berkeley.edu/ucce50/ag-labor/7research/Pre-Caucus2.pdf.

The Payoff

It helps everyone involved

The conflict management model developed by Billikopf is being used by universities in many nations to teach conflict management. It has been adopted not only in agriculture and in the workplace, but also to solve conflicts in numerous settings where mediators deal with interpersonal conflicts


Supporting Unit: Stanislaus County

Gregorio Billikopf Encina, area farm advisor
UCCE, 3800 Cornucopia Way, Suite A
Modesto, CA 95358
(209) 525-6800 gebillikopf@ucdavis.edu