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Recognition for the “Cooperation and Conflict Culture” project

(Vienna, 23rd June 2015) The MedUni Wien Vienna has won the IRIS Award 2015 for the “Cooperation and Conflict Culture” initiative in the Non-Profit Organisations category. This prize honours organisations that take a strategic approach to tackling the culture of conflict and implement initiatives towards respectful cooperation.

IRIS is an association working to eliminate conflict culture and awards its prizes in recognition of a constructive approach to both internal and external conflicts. The organisation’s aim is to honour and spotlight tried and tested concepts and initiatives undertaken by dedicated businesses and organisations, and to encourage others to imitate them. This year’s awards were presented in Graz on 22 June 2015 during a specialist conference on conflict culture.

The “Cooperation and Conflict Culture” Initiative at MedUni Vienna
Conflicts of interest, conflicting goals, pressure to compete, holiday schedules, or just simple misunderstandings can easily lead to strife in everyday working life. So in 2012, MedUni Vienna, under the aegis of Vice Rector Karin Gutiérrez-Lobos, developed a conflict management strategy to improve cultures of cooperation and conflict at the university. Its main aims were to:
• Establish internal communications advisers and conflict counsellors
• Recognise and tackle tensions early
• Make it easy to work through conflicts
• Promote a culture of open and direct conversation
• Support respectful communication styles

Internal communications advisers and conflict mediators in action
The dedicated advisers and mediators are vital to the “Cooperation and Conflict Culture” initiative. They are there to support colleagues seeking help in challenging situations by offering specific advice on potential ways of easing tensions. They are easy to access as an informal (first) port of call. Whatever the starting point, these specially-trained, internal counsellors help to identify and implement the right approach to take, using a range of methods including “micro-counselling”, coaching and mediation in discussions. They also act as intermediaries to departments and committees.

Internal conflict mediation is continuously evaluated using a before-and-after study. The results show that, after just one year in operation, there has been a measurable and positive impact on the university culture. What is more, it is hoped that there will be lasting benefits as a respectful communication culture develops and approaches to dealing with tensions and conflicts improve in future. Given the positive outcome of the evaluation of the pilot phase, it has been decided to continue with the initiative.

Future: expanding internal conflict mediation at the MedUni Vienna

31 internal conflict counsellors, trained by the Trialogis consultancy, have been based in 18 units at the MedUni Vienna since 2014. “The conflict counsellors are well known and appreciated for what they do. We are now hard at work on extending communication and conflict counselling across the whole of the MedUni Vienna,” says Katharina Mallich-Pötz, Head of Human Resources Development.

» Zusammenarbeits- und Konfliktkultur an der MedUni Wien