The Circle process originated among First Nations communities, who for centuries used community circles to deal with difficult issues and where decisions need to be made. The Circle process is useful in workplaces where there are deeply-rooted disputes or there is a need for a public “clearing of the air” about a specific incident in the recent or distant past which has been hampering working relationships.
Sometimes known as Corporate, Peer or Restorative Circles, Agree facilitates these group processes for intact work-teams where the workplace community needs to address complex issues. Circles are often part of a continuum of a Workplace Assessment, sometimes with preliminary interventions such as mediation or coaching, and can be adapted as part of a Team Restoration Workshop.
Circles are “high risk / high reward” interventions. A successful circle can provide healing for a damaged workplace by transparently and collectively identifying concerns and by tapping into the resources of the “silent majority” of employees who are not being served by the status quo. The risk is that a Circle needs all employees willing to participate and change behaviours and requires committed support from management to achieve a long-term solution. The recommendation for a Circle usually occurs after a Workplace Assessment. Because it is high risk / high reward, and requires a significant investment in time, money, staff and management resources, Agree tends to recommend this intervention only when other options seem unsuitable.
Agree has successfully melded Circles with elements of Team Restoration workshops. Following the circle, which is the group’s opportunity to heal the past, the group participates in a more structured process to collectively develop their team’s Workplace Code of Conduct, thereby taking the first step together towards a more positive and productive workplace.
Following a Workplace Assessment, the Agree Consultant will discuss with the organizational representative the specific objectives, management commitment to the process, and develop a plan for the Circle. Circles requires 2 facilitators, to act as either the Host or Guardian of the Circle.
Typically, Facilitators meet individually with each participant prior to the Circle to explain the goals and process and to provide general coaching on respectful, inclusive communication and listening. The Facilitators will develop a seating plan and guiding questions to maximize success. The facilitators manage the Circle by:
Introducing the goals and guidelines; the Circle provides:
an opportunity for each person to share their perspective and demonstrate respect for other’s perspectives
to collectively envision a respectful and healthy workplace by sharing observations and ideas about what each person can do to achieve it
The Host introduces topics and questions to focus the circle and move the dialogue forward by passing a Talking Piece around the circle. The person holding the talking piece can speak without interruption or commentary
The Guardian holds a Tingsha bell and rings it for a pause when there is a need for reflection, or feels the group needs to pause to address an issue.
Throughout, the facilitators create a supportive and safe environment that encourages responsible, authentic conversations with a goal to healing.
In situations where decision-making is part of the circle, a vote is assessed through a show of hands, usually requiring an 85% consensus. Since the primary purpose of the Circle is to help the group heal, if consensus is not possible on the first vote, the Host generates a new question to re-focus the group and the Talking Stick is passed around the Circle, allowing participants to refine their needs and options, until a decision is possible
The Next Best Step: We invite you to call our office to discuss the most appropriate conflict resolution process for your situation – 1-800-524-6967.