Emotions in Conflict

By Randy Rodriguez

The following names have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.

Emotions played a big part in one of the first cases I opened. The parties, “Michael” and “George” came into conciliation because Michael, a contractor, was not paid the amount that he was verbally promised for his work, while George, the house owner, felt like he overpaid someone for a job that was not well-done. On one side, we have Michael, a man who worked for two weeks installing cabinets and granite floors on a new condo and was expecting to earn around $1200. However, he was only paid around $950. Michael was upset and hurt by this and felt angry at George. To him, George was cheating him out money he rightfully deserved and made him look like a fool.  Furthermore, Michael felt that George stabbed him in the back because during the course of the job, George acted very nicely with him but later turned his behavior around and did not pay him what was owed. George’s failure to pay also negatively impacted Michael’s financial situation. Michael was someone who worked as an independent contractor, and he felt that for those two weeks he worked for George, he could have been out there working for another client who would have been true to his word and paid him the full amount.

On the other side, you have George, the employer who felt that he overpaid Michael as the results he was given were not of the quality that he expected. George had set certain standards for the work he hired Michael to do, and instead of fulfilling these expectations, Michael worked less days than agreed upon, and his work was allegedly of bad quality. According to George, Michael only worked for 11 days instead of the full two weeks. Furthermore, George felt that Michael was also threatening his livelihood since his worked involved him having properly installed and constructed floors and cabinets that George would ultimately utilize. At this point, George already felt that he was very generous with Michael, paying him an extra $40 even though he worked fewer days than expected.

It comes as no surprise then that going into the conciliation, the parties were very much at odds with one another. Though Michael was somewhat ready for a compromise, George came into conciliation with hesitance, believing that Michael was only doing this to get more money from him for a job that was not worth the initial amount. Mediating this situation means addressing the hurt pride and egos of the parties, trying to get them to understand why the other party feels justified in his position. Though Michael and George are still at odds with one another, mediation/conciliation allowed them the opportunity to talk with one another beyond the issue of money and attempt to come to a solution together.