CRA's Guide to the Informal Conflict Resolution Program

May 15, 2019

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Table of contents

The Guide to the Informal Conflict Resolution Program came into effect on December 17, 2015, following approval by the Director General, Workplace Relations and Compensation Directorate, Human Resources Branch on November 5, 2015.


Employees of the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) play an important role in maintaining professional working relationships and fostering a work environment where individuals demonstrate collaboration and respect. Conflict is natural and can be the source of creativity and learning. When faced with a conflict, employees are expected, where possible, to address the situation informally by directly communicating the source of their dissatisfaction with the other party. If the employee is unable to resolve the situation or requires support to do so, the employee may seek assistance from management, unions, and/or an informal conflict resolution (ICR) practitioner. The employee can also obtain support from the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). At any time, employees have the right to seek redress through the appropriate formal recourse process in accordance with established procedures at the CRA.

Objective of the ICR Program

The objective of the CRA's ICR Program is to support employees in effectively addressing and managing conflict at the lowest possible level, by making available impartial and confidential assistance provided by ICR practitioners. ICR practitioners help employees facing conflict situations to resolve them informally. The program also assists employees, management, union representatives and human resources professionals in acquiring the necessary skills to become self-sufficient and competent in resolving conflict.

The Various Components of the ICR Program

  • The National ICR Program Office, as the functional authority for the ICR Program, is responsible for the program design and development and works in consultation with management, unions and the ICR practitioners.
  • The national unions provide feedback on program design, development and activities through the joint union-management National ICR Advisory Committee.
  • Regional management ensures the effective delivery of the program.
  • The ICR practitioners deliver ICR services to employees.

Monitoring the ICR Program

  • The National ICR Program Office is responsible for monitoring and reporting to senior management and the National ICR Advisory Committee.
  • Regional management reports to the National ICR Program Office on the program deliverables and functional ICR budgets.
  • The ICR practitioners capture data on services provided without any reference that could identify the parties. They also provide employees who have received ICR services with a client satisfaction questionnaire. The data is compiled and analyzed by the National ICR Program Office to improve the program's efficiency and service delivery.

Accessing ICR Services

  • The ICR Program website offers information on the intervention services, which include conflict coaching, facilitated discussion or mediation, group processes, training and awareness sessions.
  • ICR services are voluntary and are based on the principle of self-determination and are without prejudice.
  • Employees can seek assistance from an ICR practitioner at any stage of a conflict. For the names and contact information of ICR practitioners in your area, consult the directory on the ICR Program website.
  • Information discussed with an ICR practitioner, or shared during informal processes, is kept confidential, subject to certain limitations.
  • Employees and managers taking part in an informal process may be accompanied by a person of their choice with the consent of all involved parties.
  • Employees accessing ICR services during work hours must ensure they inform their supervisor and use time code 081 to account for time spent with an ICR practitioner obtaining assistance or taking part in ICR intervention services.
  • Employees are encouraged to learn about the ICR Program by visiting the ICR Program website or by attending learning activities.
  • Employees who are dissatisfied with the services received from an ICR practitioner or who wish to provide any type of feedback on the program are encouraged to contact the National ICR Program Office or call 1-877-418-7713.

All CRA Employees' Role and Responsibilities (including management)

  • demonstrate CRA values and be role models in addressing conflict situations;
  • actively pursue ICR learning activities;
  • attempt to resolve conflict by considering the needs and interests of others;
  • voluntarily participate in informal processes when appropriate;
  • respect the confidential nature of ICR services; and
  • seek support and guidance from the various stakeholders (that is, management, unions, ICR practitioners, and EAP).

Managers' Additional Role and Responsibilities

  • proactively address workplace conflict and use and promote informal approaches to resolve conflict;
  • familiarize themselves with the processes and services available to address conflict;
  • advise employees on the resources available to them;
  • enable ICR processes with the ICR practitioner when requested by parties in conflict;
  • respect the voluntary nature of ICR by ensuring that employees do not feel obligated to participate in ICR processes;
  • seek support with respect to conflict resolution (that is Labour Relations, ICR practitioners, and EAP);
  • collaborate with union representatives to manage conflict effectively; and
  • support ICR learning events.

Union Representatives' Additional Role and Responsibilities

  • ensure employees' rights are protected and promote the resolution of conflict at the lowest possible level;
  • familiarize themselves with the processes and services available to address conflict and advise employees on the availability of the various resources and options available to them;
  • respect the voluntary nature of ICR by ensuring that employees do not feel compelled to participate in ICR processes;
  • collaborate with management to manage conflict effectively; and
  • support ICR learning events.

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1. Employees are all persons employed by the CRA whether indeterminate or determinate, including students and part-time employees. This does not include contractors, suppliers, and persons no longer employed by the CRA (for example, terminated or retired).

2. The ICR Program has adopted an interest-based approach for addressing conflict situations informally. An interest-based approach focuses on the priorities, expectations, assumptions, concerns, hopes, beliefs, fears, and values (PEACH BFVs) of the parties in conflict.

The following are some of the important elements of an interest-based approach:

  • active listening and understanding the interests, needs and viewpoints of both parties is critical;
  • satisfies as many of the parties' interests as possible and to find a mutually satisfying solution that works best for all;
  • problems are addressed at the earliest opportunity;
  • affected parties have a significant role, as they remain in control of the decision-making process that can lead to solutions; and
  • facilitates the re-building of trust and relationships.

While employees are encouraged to use informal processes to address and resolve workplace conflict, they always have the right to seek redress through the appropriate formal recourse process in accordance with established procedures at the CRA.

3. ICR practitioners are CRA employees who have received specialized training and provide employees with independent, confidential and impartial third party assistance. ICR practitioners provide expert consultation and intervention services (conflict coaching; facilitated discussions; mediation; group processes) as well as training and awareness sessions to assist employees in understanding and developing conflict resolution skills. All services are delivered in accordance with the national protocols and processes set out in the ICR Standards of Practice Manual.

4. Formal recourse

5. The ICR practitioner conducts all processes in an impartial manner, without favouritism, bias or prejudice. The role of the practitioner is to provide structure to an intervention session. The practitioner does not make suggestions or provide comments about the content of the conflict.

6. All information exchanged during an informal process is treated as confidential by all parties involved, and is not to be shared with others, except under the following circumstances:

  • when required by law;
  • when there is a threat of physical violence or injury to oneself or others;
  • when authorization has been given by the parties to share information with others; or
  • where the terms of an agreement necessitate the involvement of a third party.

ICR practitioners follow strict guidelines on the type of data captured for all conflict resolution interventions. The data recorded does not identify the parties.

7. The National ICR Program Office within the Human Resources Branch is the functional and subject matter authority for the program. The National ICR Program Office establishes practitioner standards of performance and service delivery based on industry and federal government ICR standards and the ICR Program service providers' code of ethics and professional conduct. It develops all national ICR learning products in consultation with stakeholders, and sets the national promotional strategy for the program.

8. National ICR Advisory Committee Terms of Reference (PDF, 32 KB)

9. Regional management refers to the regional management team and more specifically the managers to whom the ICR practitioner reports. These managers:

  • hire ICR practitioners using the national standardized hiring process developed jointly with the National ICR Program Office, according to the number of full-time equivalents allocated to each region;
  • provide ICR practitioners with an enclosed office in accordance with the CRA and Public Works and Government Services Fit-up Standards;
  • identify employee needs regarding ICR training and provide input on national learning products; and
  • promote ICR services, concepts and approaches to managers and staff.

10. Client satisfaction questionnaire (external link)

11. Conflict coaching is a structured, one-on-one process that helps clients develop or improve their conflict resolution skills. This is a future-oriented process which is voluntary and confidential, with a focus on the client's conflict resolution goals.

12. A facilitated discussion or mediation is a voluntary process of collaborative problem-solving in which an impartial third party (the ICR practitioner or external service provider) helps parties work together to identify their respective issues, examine their needs and/or interests, explore options, and seek mutually agreeable solutions.

13. A group process is a structured intervention where an impartial third party (the ICR practitioner or external service provider) guides a group to help them identify their issues and establish an action plan that satisfies their needs and enables them to achieve their desired outcome.

14. Training is available for employees and managers to assist them in developing conflict resolution skills.

15. Awareness sessions offered by the ICR Program focus on prevention and management of conflict which provide participants with an understanding of how to incorporate the ICR approach in day-to-day situations. These include an ICR Program overview session which provides an understanding of the full spectrum of options available to address conflict; group and team activity sessions on various themes; and lunch and learn sessions.

16. Self-determination is the act of coming to a voluntary decision in which each party makes a free and informed choice as to process and outcome. Any party may terminate participation in informal conflict resolution process at any time.

17. All information obtained in informal processes is regarded as "without prejudice". This means that any information obtained in an informal process cannot be disclosed or used in a subsequent formal process, unless the same information is obtained independently from other sources.

18. ICR directory

19. ICR Program website