Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program

All organizations have conflict. We can respond to conflict with choices that lead to destructive outcomes – the escalating "battles" that lead to hurt and unsafe feelings, or the suppressed frustration that eats away at employees’ comfort. We can also respond to conflict in a manner that leads to constructive outcomes. While many employees would like a constructive resolution to conflict, we often do not know how to achieve such a resolution, and so may not believe that it is possible.

Frequently when we experience conflict, we can work things out by ourselves, quickly and satisfactorily. However, when a person feels a need for assistance in order to attempt to reach a constructive solution, the Federal Government and USDA offer a variety of kinds of assistance. This Guide is intended to help you choose an option best suited to your situation.

Informal avenues are available. A relatively new "interest-based" option—Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)—leaves the resolution of conflict to the persons who have the conflict. ADR can help USDA employees improve communication, build relationships, and understand another person’s perspective. The availability of ADR before, during, or in place of the formal dispute resolution avenues provides employees a more "personal" option for addressing their concerns.

Formal avenues are also available to employees such as the grievance and EEO complaint processes. Like the court system, these are "rights-based" and end with a decision-maker determining the final outcome. Each approach has its own timeframes, procedures, and decision-making structure. The demands on an employee’s finances, time, and emotions, as well as the demands on the work environment, vary as well.

FAS employees are encouraged to review this information. Should you face a workplace conflict, call (202) 720-7233. Protections against reprisal exist for employees who elect to pursue these options.

In most instances of conflict, doing nothing is the least advisable course of action. By seeking to address concerns early and choosing an appropriate avenue, you can increase the chances of resolving your situation in the most timely and effective manner.

For additional information on Alternative Dispute Resolution, click on the following: