Headings like “Church and residents clash”, or “Community fighting environmental company” makes you think: is fighting the real solution?
Both sides have a legitimate case, but is fighting in court the answer. In the case of the church, the community is complaining about the noise the church generates. If the two parties employed a good mediator, I am sure that acceptable solutions to the problem(s) could be found. The church could for instance start later in the morning, or they could install air conditioners and keep the windows closed, or tone down the volume of the music. If one does not go through mediation these options are not evaluated – shut the doors so we can have our peace on the one hand or it is our right to worship as we want, and it does not matter what disturbance we cause to the community. (I am not saying that is their stance, but that is a typical fighting stance).
A very large community was affected by the smell from a landfill site. The community complained, and the company ignored the complaints. It than came to a point of no return. Now the matter is in court at very high costs to the company. If the company had employed a good mediator at the start of the complaint; proper mediation sessions would have been held and the company could have rectified its problems at an early stage and prevented the litigation that is now in progress, not to mention the negative affect it has on the brand.
The difficulty is that somebody must have the foresight to start mediation at an early stage. In our case the Church board should have been the proactive party. In a dispute with a community, the company involved should have taken the lead. By being proactive and starting a process of mediation early will bring the “problem” back into perspective. Often managers and directors take a complaint personal and / or read the complaint incorrectly due to poor language usage by the complaining community. Through mediation the complaint is properly identified and discussed, and proposals placed on the table.
The earlier mediation can start in a dispute the better it is and the higher the chances of a positive outcome.