Conflict Resolution Protocol

I. Objective For This Protocol

The Burning Man organization is committed to creating a fun, friendly and safe work environment. Open communication is the only way to create such an atmosphere. Also, everyone in our community helps create and shape Burning Man. Therefore, everyone involved in the Burning Man Project should feel heard and be taken seriously without being penalized for voicing an idea. This protocol is designed to facilitate open communication on every level of the Burning Man project, and also, provide guidelines for resolving conflicts between members of our project.

II. Your Responsibilities

  1. Review this document and familiarize yourself with its goals, and the recommended approaches for conflict resolution.
  2. Remember that Burning Man is a community of individuals working together for a common goal. If there is conflict between community members, we urge the individuals involved to first discuss the issues with each other. Issues are best resolved when people deal directly face-to-face.
  3. If you find yourself in a conflict, communicate in a non-confrontational manner by stating why the other person’s actions concern you, and/or how his or her actions make you feel. Engage in active listening to allow the other person to be heard. Accusations are highly likely to result in the other person becoming defensive. This will not do anything to resolve the conflict, and will undoubtedly “fuel the fire.” Try to resolve the conflict sooner, rather than later. Otherwise the situation will fester and result in more conflict.
  4. If communication fails to resolve the conflict then ask yourself if you have done your best to address the other person’s concerns. If the answer to this question is “yes,” then you should get a third-party involved as outlined below in part III. of this protocol.
  5. If you find yourself in a conflict then act in a professional manner by following the guidelines in this protocol.
  6. Everyone needs to “vent” now and then. Sometimes this can alleviate a minor conflict. Try to do this in the proper place and time. Complaining to the wrong person will undoubtedly turn into gossip.

III. Conflict Resolution Protocols

  1. Conflict With Another Member Of Your Team: When a team member or a group of team members finds it difficult to work with another member, and have been unable to resolve the problem directly with the individual or within the group (see section II. C. above), a third-party, such as the Volunteer Coordinator, Senior Staff member, or other neutral party may be asked to help facilitate a discussion. This may mean the third-party simply encourages or helps arrange a meeting. Or, this could mean that the individuals wish to involve the third-party as a mediator in their meeting.
  2. Conflict With Your Team Leader: If you are having a conflict with your team leader and the methods for resolving conflict prescribed in this document (see section II. C. above) are not working then consider involving the Senior Staff member in your department (or Board member for more serious conflicts). Use your best discretion when making this decision. The more serious the conflict, the more important it will be to get a Senior Staff or Board member involved. If the person with whom you are in conflict happens to be your Senior Staff leader then follow the guidelines in the preceding two paragraphs, but use an LLC Board member as the third-party mediator.
  3. Conflicts Between Senior Staff Members: Conflicts between Senior Staff members should be handled the same as other conflicts within teams (see III. A. above). In this case the third-party should be an LLC Board member.
  4. Conflict With An LLC Board Member: If you are having a conflict with an LLC Board Member then you should approach one of the five other members of the LLC Board for consultation on the matter for support or to resolve the problem. All members of the LLC Board are committed to the fair treatment of staff members and hold high expectations for one another. Please note that the entire LLC Board will address all issues brought to any individual LLC Board member.
  5. Conflict Resolution Advocate: If the prior avenues have not been fruitful, then you should consider involving the Conflict Resolution Advocate. The Advocate will initially inquire whether you have exhausted your options available in this Protocol. If so, the Advocate may become involved by bringing the necessary individuals together to find a resolution. Please note that the Conflict Resolution Advocate should only be used for actual conflict resolution, and not for gossip, venting or any other reason (see section II. E. & F. above). Please also note that matters of grave importance cannot be kept confidential and must be communicated to the LLC Board (see section V. below).

IV. Last Resort

If a conflict cannot be resolved through the process outlined above, the individual(s) involved have the option of speaking to Larry Harvey, Director of Buring Man. As a general rule, the Director of Burning Man should only be brought into the situation after all other avenues of resolution have been attempted.

V. Confidentiality

If you approach a third-party such as the Conflict Resolution Advocate about an issue, and you would like the issue to remain confidential, then you should state this at the outset. Please note, however, that everyone has a duty to report issues of grave importance such as those involving sexual harassment, physical injury, legal issues or the survival of the event to the LLC Board immediately.

Additionally, the Conflict Resolution Advocate is responsible for reporting the general nature of all conflict resolution activities in a monthly report to the LLC Board. Finally, remember that no one has the power to prevent others from communicating information that they may have learned inadvertently.