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 mediation 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 $1,200. 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 against him and did not pay him what he was owed. George’s failure to fully pay also negatively impacted Michael’s financial situation. Michael was someone who worked as an independent contractor. He felt that for the 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, we have George, the employer who felt that he overpaid Michael because the results were not of the quality that he had expected. George believed he had set certain standards for the work he hired Michael to do. However, instead of fulfilling these expectations, Michael worked fewer days than agreed upon, and his work was, in George’s mind, 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 work required him to have properly installed and constructed floors and cabinets that George would ultimately use. At this point, George already felt that he was very generous with Michael, having paid him $40 more than the 11 days of work would have warranted.

It comes as no surprise then that going into the mediation, the parties were very much at odds with each another. Though Michael was somewhat ready for a compromise, George came into mediation with hesitance, believing that Michael was only doing this to get paid more money for a job that was not worth the amount he had already been paid.

Mediating this situation meant addressing the hurt pride and egos of the parties, and trying to get them to understand why the other party felt justified in their position. Though Michael and George did not settle their money dispute, mediation allowed them the opportunity to discuss their non-monetary issues and attempt to better understand each other’s feelings, values and needs.

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