The Dynamics of Trust model was developed by the author incorporating the work of Daryl Landau.1 To develop this model, a significant amount of research was conducted in the area of attribution theory, a cornerstone in understanding the dynamics of trust in human interactions.
One of the core issues in conflict resolution between parties is the issue of trust. We often hear the phrase “I don't trust you,” or “I don't trust them” when we manage conflict. Trust, or lack of it, can be a significant barrier to parties' finding a resolution to an issue; indeed, it can prevent the parties from even wanting to talk. On the other side of the coin, trust is a unique resource, in that trust is expanded rather than depleted the more it is used. The more we can access trust with the parties, the more useful and effective it becomes in reaching resolution. Trust is a key element in the conflict management process.
Trust is one of the least understood dynamics in human relationships. We often think of trust as a single thing, a single measure, a single component, when this is patently not the case. As an example, many of us get in a car and drive to work on roads and highways where the only thing separating us from oncoming cars is a white line painted on the road (and in many cases, not even a solid white line!). We are, in essence, trusting thousands of strangers to stay on their side of the line. If we didn't fundamentally trust that they would do so, it's virtually certain that no one would be willing to drive a car. Does this mean that we “trust” every stranger we pass on the road? We clearly trust them to stay on their side of the road, but we probably wouldn't trust them with the keys to our house. This means that we can trust someone in one situation, for one reason, and not necessarily trust them in all situations for all things. Trust, therefore, plays a complex and varied role in human relationships.
There are a variety of definitions of trust that approach the subject from different angles, from a psychological view to a personality view to a behavioral view. For our purposes, we'll look at a functional definition of trust to help us understand the dynamics surrounding it.
A simple definition of trust is this: trust is the level of positive expectations we have about another person's motives and intentions toward us when we are in a situation of risk.2 The two key elements of this definition are:
The Dynamics of Trust model, from a diagnostic point of view, focuses on these two areas:
Each person's level of risk tolerance is a complex balance of personality (our personal tendency to like risk, or not) and our past experience with (and perceptions of) similar situations. Not surprisingly, it has little to do with factual assessments of risk, because human beings are notoriously bad at assessing actual risk. For example, people going camping in the woods will tend to think about, perhaps even obsess about, the risk of a bear attack, a risk that is statistically far lower than the chances of being struck by lightning. At the same time, they will get in their car and drive 300 miles to reach the campground without even considering the fact that driving is by far one of the most dangerous activities people engage in.
Risk tolerance, however, is not based solely on personality or perception; it is also based on the relationship between the fear of what might be lost (the risk) compared to the benefit of what might be gained (the reward). It is an individual's assessment of this risk/reward balance that determines behavior.
In simple terms, if the risk or loss is seen as greater than the reward or gain,3 a party to a conflict is not likely to take the risk unless they have sufficiently positive expectations about the other party's motives and intentions—in other words, unless there is sufficient trust. This leads us to look in depth at the second component of trust—how we assess motives and assign blame.
Attribution theory is a cornerstone in the broader discipline of psychology and has been the subject of a significant amount of research and writing over the last 40 years.
Essentially, what attribution theory argues is this: When a negative event arises, when we are hurt or harmed, our initial response is to attribute the cause to someone or something. We do this in order to make sense of what has happened, and we have a strong tendency to attribute in a very particular way.
When we are involved with a negative event, we have a strong tendency to attribute the cause to the situation we are in, blaming it on lack of information, lack of training (that should have been given to us), orders from our boss that we had no choice about, market forces, or other circumstances that we see as beyond our control. In essence, we attribute the best of intentions to ourselves and blame outside circumstances for the problem, thus minimizing the fault or blame.
When others are involved with or cause a negative event, we have a strong tendency to ignore or minimize the situational factors and attribute the cause to the intrinsic nature or bad intentions of the other person. In other words, we lay fault and blame on the other individual personally; we attribute the cause to their innate bad character, their indifference, even their obvious bad intentions. We almost always give ourselves the benefit of the doubt but do not give it to others.
Psychologists have demonstrated this tendency as being so strong that they refer to this as “fundamental attributional error,” combined with “self-serving or egocentric bias.” The research has found this bias to be present and pronounced in virtually all studies done on how we attribute fault and blame.
This self-serving bias has a profound effect on trust. It means that in many situations, negative events are attributed in a way that exaggerates the wrong, invents bad intentions, blames the other party, creates feelings of betrayal, and makes the conflict deeply personal. All of this happens because of the assumptions driven by our self-serving bias and not necessarily because of what is true.
These negative attributions and blame magnify the “risk” side of the equation and minimize the possibility of any reward, making any amount of trust almost impossible. Clearly, a practitioner must understand the dynamics of attribution and blame in order to work effectively with trust in conflict situations.
What attribution theory highlights is that there is a whole range of attributions that people are capable of making in a given situation (albeit with a bias toward blaming others rather than oneself). From the practitioner's point of view, the Dynamics of Trust model will help diagnose the underlying attributions that are perpetuating a conflict. Diagnostically, then, the Trust model says that there are fundamentally three types of attributions people can make in conflict situations: situation, intrinsic nature, and intentional/hostile (Figure 7.1).
When we attribute the cause of a conflict or problem to the situation as opposed to a person, we are saying that the cause was due to factors beyond the control or intention of the person involved. The intentions were good, they tried their best, and the outcome was not desired by anyone. Some of the beliefs that this type of attribution tends to generate are:
Some examples of a situation attribution are:
This type of attribution results in relatively low levels of blame, maintains higher levels of trust, and gives parties a strong sense that this problem can be prevented in the future if it's properly addressed.
This attribution can result in a wide range of blame, from low to very high. Essentially, it involves one party attributing the cause of the conflict to the intrinsic nature of the other party. It may be because they're shy, it may be because of their culture or traditions, it may be that past experiences or core values have strongly affected them, it may be that they simply don't pay attention to other people, but in all cases the issue is blamed on the other person's innate character or nature rather than to conscious, intentional behavior. Some beliefs that this type of attribution tends to generate are:
Some examples of an intrinsic nature attribution are:
When parties make an intrinsic nature attribution it's usually more personal than a situation attribution but is typically less personal than an intentional attribution. How much blame we assign will be based on our assessment of how dangerous these intrinsic qualities are.4 In many cases, an intrinsic nature attribution allows significant levels of trust to remain, most often in parts of the relationship unrelated to the conflict.
This is the most destructive form of attribution in that it lays complete blame on the other party. It characterizes their actions as intentionally causing harm, either because of personal hostility or because they stood to gain in some way from the harm they caused. It assumes that the other person knew what damage their actions would cause and proceeded anyway. It assumes intentional dishonesty, malice, and hostility. Some beliefs that this type of attribution tends to generate are:
Some examples of intentional attribution are:
This attribution results in very high levels of blame, eliminates trust, and brings a strong sense that any further dealings with this party are too risky and dangerous, including any attempts at resolution.
There is a strong correlation between the type of attribution we make and the laying of blame. In general, the situation attribution minimizes the laying of blame on the other party and depersonalizes the situation; the intrinsic attribution causes a low-to-moderate level of blame along with a moderate amount of “taking it personally,” and the intentional attribution lays a significant amount of blame that feels highly personal. It can be arranged on the scale as follows (Figure 7.2):
Motives and intentions cannot be seen, they can only be inferred from our interpretation of the other party's behavior. Attributions, therefore, are fundamentally assumptions and perceptions, not reality. These perceptions are influenced mostly by two factors: information and preconceptions.
Fortunately, attributions can be changed. As practitioners, we can help to influence parties' attributions by working with or challenging the two elements that form these attributions, namely, information and preconceptions. This process is explored further in the strategic section of this model.
The Trust model clearly shows us the following:
How we work with parties' attributions will greatly influence the outcome of a conflict.
In our case study we can apply the Trust model to diagnose the parties' attributions and in doing so begin to understand the source and level of mistrust and blame each party is dealing with in the situation.
Applying the Dynamics of Trust to our case study, the attributions might look this way:
In looking at these high levels of intentional and strong intrinsic attributions, Bob believes Sally has personally caused this conflict and has assigned a high degree of blame to Sally for the current situation.
Because most of his attributions toward Diane are situation or mildly intrinsic, Bob has little or no blame to lay on Diane for the conflict. He attributes little of the cause to Diane personally, even though the daily interactions with Diane are tense and negative.
Sally clearly believes Bob has caused the current situation. That said, because most of her attributions are intrinsic or situation, Sally is only moderately taking the situation personally or blaming Bob on a personal level.
Sally has little, if any, blame for Diane because the attribution is purely situation.
Although Diane is very frustrated and believes Bob is behaving poorly, she assigns only a low or moderate amount of blame to Bob, based on the mainly situation and low intrinsic attributions she is making.
Although she recognizes that Sally's actions are contributing to the current problems, Diane has assigned very little blame to Sally, due to the mainly situation and relatively positive intrinsic attributions made.
Through this analysis, it becomes clear that although everyone is frustrated, Bob has taken the situation deeply personally, Diane a little bit personally, and Sally sees the problem both as a situational problem as well as a “Bob” problem. Bob has attributed the cause of the situation primarily to intentional reasons on Sally's part, with a negative intrinsic attribution supporting that. Sally, on the other hand, has attributed the cause mostly to neutral intrinsic and situation factors, that is, Bob's nature and skill level, and only a little to intentional causes. Diane, finally, thinks the whole problem is mostly situation, with some intrinsic issues with Bob.
Note how the attributions for each party are dramatically different. In the next section we'll see how effective practice based on this model can address these differing attributions.
Now that we understand roughly what each of the parties believes to be the cause of the conflict, the Trust model can offer the practitioner a range of strategies for how he or she may proceed. Before moving on to strategies, however, we need to look at two different types of trust and some of their characteristics.
The Trust model identifies two broad types of trust that parties to a conflict are constantly relying on: personal trust and procedural trust.
Personal trust is a set of feelings that defines how comfortable we are taking a given level of risk with a specific person. This has to do with our judgment of that person's character, integrity, values, and so on. It answers the question, “How much do I trust this individual?” Some characteristics of personal trust are:
It is impossible for people to “will” personal trust, meaning that it is built on experience and is not achieved by parties simply agreeing to trust one another. It should also be noted that personal trust is difficult to establish and easy to lose.
People tend to assume that all trust falls under the umbrella of personal trust—if I don't trust you on a personal basis, then we have no trust. In reality, this is only one, albeit important, form of trust.
Procedural trust is the trust we place in a structure or process we are involved in, as opposed to a person. For example, parties to a conflict often attempt mediation when they have very little trust in each other, and may have little experience with the mediator as well. In this case, they are placing their trust in the mediation process itself.Procedural trust answers the question, “How much trust do I have in the process itself, regardless of the individual(s) involved?” Some characteristics of procedural trust are:
Procedural trust is significantly different from personal trust, in that procedural trust processes can be collaboratively built and agreed upon by the parties themselves. Procedural trust is not a matter of will; it is a set of steps or structures that are tangible and defined. This makes procedural trust a powerful tool when working with conflict, and when applying some of the following strategies.
One of the first casualties in conflict is the loss of trust, but how much trust is lost and how the practitioner should proceed are best assessed by looking at the attributions that the parties are making. In extreme conflict, both personal trust as well as procedural trust can be lost. In these cases, parties simply don't want to deal with the other party because they can't see a safe way to negotiate with an untrustworthy party. For this reason, Strategy #1 is to focus the parties away from personal trust (which can be seen as so risky to the parties as to be inconceivable) and focus them on various forms of procedural trust, on a process that will effectively protect both parties' interests enough to begin discussions and move forward.
How exactly to move forward can be decided by looking at the attributions that are in play for the parties. Different types of attributions will direct the practitioner toward taking different steps in order to intervene effectively.
Personal and procedural trust are directly linked to the attributions the parties have made. In general, situation attributions maintain the most personal trust and require the least procedural trust; intrinsic attributions can damage personal trust and require some level of procedural trust, whereas intentional attributions destroy personal trust and require an almost exclusive focus on procedural trust in order to move forward. (Figure 7.3.)
Because conflict is extremely destructive to personal trust, the more blame and negative attribution the parties make toward each other the more practitioners need to look toward procedural trust to help the parties move forward. In other words, by effectively implementing procedural trust we can help the parties rebuild some personal trust down the road.
The first step in implementing procedural trust is to create a safe environment to begin the negotiation. This means shifting completely away from any substantive negotiation and focusing on the negotiation process itself.6 Procedural trust often focuses on who will attend, what will be on the agenda, what will be confidential, how the process will be monitored and made safe for everyone, how agreements (if reached) will be monitored, what the future relationships between parties might look like, and so on. Gaining agreement to important procedural elements often lays the groundwork for effective substantive negotiations. Another strategy to build enough procedural trust to move parties forward is by encouraging the use of “confidence-building measures,” or CBM’s.
|Procedural Trust||Confidence-Building Measures||Increase in Personal Trust|
Confidence-building measures are small steps taken by one or both parties that signal a readiness to unilaterally demonstrate trust to the other side. They are actions taken beyond what is needed to establish basic procedural trust. A confidence-building measure is an action that does not ask the other side to place their confidence in us, but shows that we are prepared to place some confidence (or trust) in them. By taking a small risk and “going first,” one party creates a positive pressure on the other party to reciprocate. CBMs often break negotiating logjams and create a pattern of important procedural trust steps.
Examples of confidence-building measures can include:
In each of these examples, one side is demonstrating willingness to take a risk and go first by offering a CBM; in doing so, they create a situation where if the other side didn't reciprocate,7 they would risk being seen as the difficult party. This dynamic creates a positive pressure on both parties to behave well. When parties begin to see each other as reliable through effective use of procedural trust and confidence-building measures, they will begin to rebuild personal trust, slowly reducing the need for CBMs or the need for extensive procedural trust structures in the future.
The second strategy to deal with negative attributions is to directly address the attribution made by each party about the other. This strategy applies where there is an abundance of intrinsic or intentional attributions.
As previously noted, whenever attributions are made, they are based on assumptions, on interpreting the available information in a particular way. Parties frequently take the same information and yet arrive at very different attributions and conclusions.
A good analogy is a children's connect-the-dots game, where a series of numbered dots are printed on a page but form no obvious picture. By connecting the dots in the right order (which is helped by the fact that the dots are numbered), a picture such as a dog or house emerges. In real life, when we assess conflict situations we are presented with the same series of “dots” (in this case, data points such as experiences, feelings, events, etc.) only in our case without the numbering. In Figure 7.4, to draw a “picture” we have to find a way to connect the dots that makes sense to us.
In Figure 7.5, however, the same data points (dots) are connected in different ways, leading to very different pictures.
To complicate matters even further, now imagine the situation where some dots (or data points) exist in one person's picture and others exist only in the other person's picture (each party having information the other doesn't have, or attributing different reasons for the events or information). Finally, as in Figure 7.6, it is not uncommon for a party to draw a picture that simply ignores some of the data points because they don't fit the picture the party has created or assumed. Completely different pictures can then be created, each of which will be completely legitimate (even seen as exclusively “right”) to the party drawing it. Our assumptions, our attribution of motives, and our interpretation of the situation and the other party's behavior all become highly influential in how we feel about the other party.
What this all means, then, is that both parties' attributions can be, and often are, biased, exaggerated, or simply wrong. Frequently, this biased attribution of the other person's actions is in the direction of minimizing situation causes and creating intrinsic or intentional causes, leading to high levels of blame and strong emotions.
Attributional retraining is a fancy term for (gently) challenging a party's assumptions. By challenging these assumptions, we help the party change their “picture”—if the dots that they used to draw the picture of the boat no longer exist, they will need to find a new picture to make sense of the situation. This process can help a party shift from intentional attribution and strong blame, to intrinsic attribution and less blame, or even to situation attribution and the elimination of some blame altogether. This process can significantly de-escalate a conflict and introduce enough trust to move forward, even if it is only procedural trust at first.
Having diagnosed the situation for what kind of attributions have been made, it becomes clear that the strongest and most negative attributions are between Bob and Sally, and it is the strength of these negative attributions that is preventing any kind of solution. This means that a first step might be to work on the negative attributions that Bob has made about Sally.
The mediator could meet with Bob alone and begin unpacking the assumptions and attributions Bob has made. This would be done by asking Bob some of the following questions, all of which uncover and gently challenge the assumptions Bob has made:
This dialogue is an example of attributional retraining, introducing information and interpretations other than the ones Bob has made and effectively causing Bob to rethink some of his attributions. If Sally had nothing to do with creating the position, Bob would have to rethink his view of Sally in some way. That is the goal of attributional retraining. Although it can take a bit of time, it can substantially alter the way each party views the underlying reasons for the other party behaving the way they are.
The mediator could meet with Sally alone and begin unpacking the assumptions and attributions Sally has made. This would be done by asking Sally some of the following questions, all of which uncover and gently challenge the assumptions she has made:
In both cases, this would start the process of changing the underlying attributions and assumptions that were blocking and preventing any trust from building between the parties.
Next, let's look at how procedural trust and confidence-building measures might help.
After shifting some of the hardline attributions between Sally and Bob, the parties looked at what steps could be taken to start improving things. They focused on two areas, communication and skills improvement.
After the attributional retraining step, Sally started to accept that Bob wanted to communicate with her to continue to feel that he was important and was doing a good job. Bob started to accept that Sally wanted communications to go through Diane to help free up her time for management-type work. Bob then suggested that Sally copy him with all communications that went to Diane; this would keep him in the loop and cost Sally no additional time. Sally agreed (a confidence-building measure), and asked that any communication back from Bob go first through Diane and that Bob contact Sally only if there was something that Diane couldn't help with. Bob agreed (another confidence-building measure) but asked that once in a while he be able to speak with Sally about the workplace in general and that he feel comfortable in doing this. Sally agreed, as long as “once in a while” meant about once per month. Bob agreed.
Both Sally and Bob agreed to run things this way for two months, keep track of how many times Bob and Sally interacted, and assess how Bob felt working with Diane. At that point, Bob and Sally would meet to discuss how it was working and what needed changing. By structuring it as a pilot process, one that was open to change later, this was seen as lower risk for Bob in that he wasn't accepting this solution regardless of how it worked for him. Sally saw it as a way of making sure the changes didn't eat up too much of her time. For both, this pilot phase was seen as a way to build confidence in their decisions.
In essence, by making the changes a pilot process, Sally and Bob were jointly engaged in verifying that this approach would work. This was a process both of them could place trust in, indicating that this step was an effective use of procedural trust.
After the attributional retraining, Sally started to see Bob as having some ambition to improve his skills, and interested in applying for other promotions. Bob started to see Sally as perhaps wanting him to do well in his job and willing to help and support him in that.
Bob identified which skills he wanted to focus on, and Sally added one or two to that list. Sally committed to finding some training in the company that Bob could take, along with the budget for it. Both agreed to sit down with Diane after the training to create an assessment process to see if the training had helped; both agreed to log improvements to Bob's skills and performance. This made Bob feel that he was supported and helped in the workplace instead of targeted for attack; Sally felt this would show her that Bob did, in fact, care about doing a good job. They even began to talk about what Sally could do to support Bob when he applied for other promotions.
In this case, the process of jointly building the skills improvement list and sending Bob on training were seen as confidence-building measures by both Sally and Bob. The assessment process was seen as the trust-monitoring process for Sally, and the training budget was seen as the trust-monitoring process for Bob. In both cases, this allowed each of them to verify that the other person was doing what they said they would do.
The Dynamics of Trust model is one of the most important models in conflict resolution work, because trust is foundational to human relationships.
Diagnostically, the Trust model goes to the heart of understanding where breaches of trust come from and what magnifies or exaggerates them in conflict settings. Attribution theory has long been researched and used to explain human behavior. The Trust model applies it specifically to conflict settings by illuminating how the dynamic of self-serving bias plays a major role in sustaining and fueling conflict. Finally, because the model gives practitioners a framework for understanding how parties perceive the conflict and make sense of the situation, it becomes a powerful tool for diagnosing complex situations. The model rates very high on the diagnostic scale.
Strategically, the model also gives clear and strong direction for working with damaging attributions. By identifying opportunities for attributional retraining (another form of reality testing) and focusing on procedural trust in conjunction with confidence-building measures, it gives practitioners clear direction on how best to work with trust issues in conflict.
|Party A||Party B|
|Situation Attributions: What is Party A attributing to circumstances beyond the control of Party B?||Situation Attributions: What is Party B attributing to circumstances beyond the control of Party A?|
|Intrinsic Nature Attributions:
What is Party A attributing to Party B's nature or disposition?
|Intrinsic Nature Attributions: |
What is Party B attributing to Party A's nature or disposition?
|Intentional or Hostile Attributions:
What does Party A believe Party B has done to cause intentional harm?
|Intentional or Hostile Attributions: |
What does Party B believe Party A has done to cause intentional harm?
|What CBMs from Party B would have impact with Party A? |
|What CBMs from Party A would have impact with Party B? |
|Who could be an effective “monitor” between Party A and Party B in the short term? |
|What would need to be monitored or verified so both parties felt that the process was safe and fair? |
This situation involved two coworkers, Jean and Anna. Jean had been in the department for about 5 years; Anna had been there about 15 years. Initially, when Jean joined the department, they had gotten along reasonably well. About 3 years prior, Jean was given an “acting supervisor” appointment in the department and had to supervise Anna, along with two other employees, for about three months. Anna resented Jean's style of supervising, and the working relationship began to deteriorate.
About six weeks into her new role, Jean approached the manager, Sheri, saying that Anna's work quality was very poor and Jean's work was suffering as a result. Jean relied on Anna (as well as two other staff) to supply reports and data to her. Sheri asked her to gather some information on “what was going on in the area” so she could address any problems. Jean took this to mean that she was to track Anna's work quality, and to do this she built an Excel spreadsheet detailing the dates on which requests were made to Anna, when the data were delivered, when scheduled reports were completed, and the quality of the work overall. In addition, she had included a “Comments” section that had the occasional comment such as “Late again!!” or “Quality?!” as a reflection of her frustration with Anna's work. It also included the odd comment about good quality work that Anna had done. She filled out this spreadsheet for about two months on a network drive that she thought Anna did not have access to.
At about the two-month mark, and before Jean could share this information with Sheri, Anna found the file on the network drive. She stormed into Sheri's office with the file and demanded to know what was going on. Sheri told her that the file Jean had created was unacceptable and that she would address it with Jean. Anna stormed out, angrily yelled something at Jean, and threatened to file a harassment complaint against Jean unless she was disciplined. Jean, in Anna's mind, had been out to “get” her for a while now, and this was evidence of Jean trying to get her fired.
Jean was upset as well. She felt that she had just done what Sheri had asked her to do and was not trying to “get” Anna. All she had wanted was for Anna's work to improve so she could do her job properly. Jean took great pride in doing more than was expected of her, but workloads had been increasing and she was falling behind due to Anna. When she approached Anna for information on reports, Anna had ignored her or had become angry. Jean didn't really accept that the comments on her spreadsheet were inappropriate, but she did realize that leaving the document on the network drive was a poor choice, because it wasn't private.
Relations in the workplace plummeted. Anna went off on sick leave for a month (her second extended leave in the past year) and upon her return didn't appear to feel any differently. She would not speak with Jean and refused to sit down with Sheri and Jean in the same room. Coworkers began to complain about the workplace, particularly about Anna's moods, and work fell way behind across the board. Anna refused to have any contact with Jean, still convinced that Jean was out to get her. In addition, because Sheri had clearly not disciplined Jean, Anna began to feel that Sheri was taking Jean's side. She began talking to the union about filing a complaint or a grievance.
|Situation Attributions: What is Anna attributing to circumstances beyond the control of Jean?
||Situation Attributions: What is Jean attributing to circumstances beyond the control of Anna?
|Intrinsic Nature Attributions:
What is Anna attributing to Jean's nature or disposition?
|Intrinsic Nature Attributions: |
What is Jean attributing to Anna's nature or disposition?
|Intentional or Hostile Attributions:
What does Anna believe Jean has done to intentionally harm her?
|Intentional or Hostile Attributions: |
What does Jean believe Anna has done to intentionally harm her?
Clearly, from the analysis, both parties have attributed the causes of the problem primarily to hostile and harmful intentions on each other's part, with a little bit of negative intrinsic attribution. This assessment was reflected in how emotionally hot the conflict was for both parties.
What situation or intrinsic attributions are being missed by either party?
What attributional retraining can be done to bring forward this information?
Questions for Anna:
Questions for Jean:
Procedural Trust Focus: What confidence-building measures would help each party start to rebuild?
What CBMs from Jean would have an impact with Anna?
What CBMs from Anna would have impact with Jean?
Who could be an effective “monitor” between Jean and Anna in the short term?
What would need to be monitored so that both parties would feel that the process is safe and fair?
After initial meetings with Anna and Jean, the practitioner met with Sheri and arranged for Sheri to meet with Anna and Jean individually. This was to clearly articulate the following: To Anna, she affirmed that it had been Sheri who had asked for the report and not Jean choosing to do it on her own. Sheri apologized to Anna for not telling her about it and took responsibility for this misstep. To Jean, Sheri made it clear that the comments in the spreadsheet were, in her view, inappropriate. After some discussion, Jean admitted she could see that they “didn't look good” to anyone else reading them.
The practitioner then met with Anna, who denied that she had been disrespectful in the past, but committed to behaving respectfully in the future. Anna agreed that it had to be respectful as defined by both Jean and the supervisor. Anna also agreed that if Jean apologized for the report, she would not file a harassment complaint. During the attributional retraining portion, she admitted that although she didn't like Jean, she recognized that Jean was probably just insensitive and showing bad judgment, rather than trying to get her fired. (This is a movement from intentional/hostile attribution to an intrinsic one, which is lower on the scale.)
The practitioner then met with Jean, who initially refused to apologize for anything. After discussing Sheri's view of the comments, Jean acknowledged that the comments could be seen as inappropriate and agreed to apologize for writing them. She also wanted it to be made clear that she wasn't trying to harm Anna but only trying to improve her work.
The practitioner brought Anna and Jean together. Jean apologized for the comments, and Anna committed to civil and respectful interactions, along with not filing a formal complaint. Both agreed to meet with the supervisor and build ground rules, which they would ask the supervisor to monitor. Based on this, both agreed to go back to working together on a professional basis.
In an individual debrief with the practitioner, Anna stated that she didn't feel that Jean really understood how this had hurt her, but felt Jean had acknowledged enough for her to let it go and move forward. Jean, in her debrief, stated that she still felt Anna didn't like her, but if there was a reasonable and professional working relationship, that was enough for her to move forward.