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Restorative Practices in Organizational Ecosystems: Transforming Leadership and Workplace Dynamics

Restorative Practices (RP) provide a powerful framework for leadership, conflict management, and enhancing leadership competencies. Grounded in the principles of mindfulness and inclusion, RP facilitates the building and maintenance of positive relationships within organizations. This holistic approach is crucial for fostering healthy supervisory relationships and enhancing the capacity for positive interactions, which is essential in navigating the complexities of workplace environments where conflict is inevitable.

Many of us have likely engaged in restorative practices without explicitly labeling them as such or realizing that we are engaging in the practice. So, what exactly are restorative practices? These approaches prioritize healing and repairing relationships over punishment. Restorative practices transcend traditional conflict resolution, marking a significant paradigm shift in how we perceive and navigate interpersonal relationships within organizations. Grounded in the principles of restorative justice, they encompass a variety of strategies designed to address and resolve conflicts by fostering a deeper understanding among the individuals involved. Through techniques such as restorative circles, these practices encourage open dialogue, mutual respect, and comprehensive conflict resolution that aims to settle disputes and transform relationships.

Restorative practices give us a structured space to openly acknowledge what is occurring within the organizational environment, promoting awareness and understanding without resorting to shaming. When issues arise, the restorative approach encourages naming the problem, exploring supportive measures or additional resources, and providing guidance where necessary. This process fosters a culture of healthy accountability, where actions and decisions are aligned with organizational values.

The values that underpin the circle process, including respect, integrity, and empathy, fundamentally shape how participants engage with each other and the issues at hand. These values foster a nurturing environment for relationships and encourage each person to embody their best self, reflecting principles they identify as representative of their highest integrity and commitment. This alignment helps guide interactions within the circle, promoting a constructive and mindful approach to dialogue. 

Conflict is an inherent aspect of human interactions. Nevertheless, restorative practices equip us with better tools for managing these conflicts. They provide proactive means for individuals to engage in mutual understanding and relationship building, to work collaboratively, and to preempt conflicts. When conflicts do arise, these practices offer secure environments for their resolution. These capabilities reflect the emergence of a new social science and a movement supported by empirical evidence. Through restorative practices, participants address conflicts and enhance self-awareness and mindfulness, deepening their understanding of themselves and others in the process. This comprehensive approach to conflict management and resolution underscores the importance of values-driven dialogue and the potential for transformative outcomes within any organizational setting.

Integrating restorative practices within professional settings is pivotal for fostering positive organizational cultures, enhancing employee engagement, and streamlining conflict resolution processes. Rooted in indigenous practices and ancient wisdom from cultures including Native American, African, Asian, and others, talking circles have evolved into a method for conflict resolution and community cohesion that is now relevant in professional settings. These practices, central to restorative justice, offer a unique addition to modern alternative dispute resolution strategies like mediation, addressing the complex dynamics of today’s diverse workplaces.

Delving into restorative practices, particularly restorative circles, we see their critical role in shaping leadership and organizational culture. These practices offer a unique lens for addressing the inevitable conflicts within organizations and underscore the need for integrated conflict management systems that transcend traditional, one-size-fits-all solutions.  The relational and healing components of restorative practices underscore the importance of human connections and emotional recovery in resolving conflicts. By addressing the root causes of discord and fostering an environment of empathy and respect, these practices encourage a transformative approach to organizational culture. Restorative practices, when embraced within organizational culture, can lead to significant positive changes in the workplace. 

A growing body of research compellingly supports the profound impact of restorative practices, advocating for their widespread adoption across various settings. These practices have significantly improved school climates in educational environments, notably reducing bullying and other misbehavior. Studies consistently show enhancements in student attendance, academic performance, and reduced conflicts. Furthermore, these practices have been found to bolster psychological outcomes for students, enhancing their capacity for healthier social interactions.

Restorative practices have enhanced morale and personal accountability in workplace environments, fostering cooperation and strengthening relationships, particularly in the educational and healthcare sectors. In correctional facilities, additional research shows that restorative practices improve behavioral outcomes and strengthen community bonds and interpersonal relationships. This underscores their adaptability and effectiveness across diverse environments. These practices encourage a collaborative approach where authority figures work with, rather than impose upon, their subordinates, leading to increased happiness, collaboration, productivity, and improved behavior among community members. Such benefits substantiate a strong business case for incorporating restorative practices into organizations, as they embody a transformative approach to workplace culture grounded in accountability, empathy, and inclusivity. Collectively, this evidence highlights the critical role that restorative practices can play in driving positive change and addressing systemic challenges across multiple sectors.

The shift towards more human-centered and ecosystem-focused approaches is essential in today’s evolving organizational landscape.  Adopting an ecosystem view of organizational health acknowledges that individuals are not isolated entities but part of a complex network of relationships and influences. This perspective calls for strategies that address the well-being of the whole system, recognizing the interconnectedness of individual health, team dynamics, and organizational culture. Restorative practices are pivotal in this holistic approach, ensuring that all aspects of the organizational ecosystem are nurtured and balanced.  This shift is not merely about adopting new strategies but fundamentally rethinking our approach to leadership and organizational culture. A human-centered approach, which centers on empathy and the healing of harm, has always been foundational to my philosophy. It involves recognizing the relational aspects of our interactions, aiming to enhance relationships, bridge understanding, and, ultimately, mitigate the cycle of conflict.

In my practice, I have effectively employed restorative circles to address various detrimental behaviors that undermine workplace culture and the sense of belonging among employees. Additionally, I have integrated principles of circles and restorative practices into the mediation process. This method allows participants to delve deeper than the iceberg tip of their conflicts, addressing substantial, often unseen issues beneath the surface, including underlying feelings that need healing beyond merely reaching an agreement.

This approach does not require parties to become close friends but facilitates a functional relationship aligned with organizational objectives or personal harmony. By focusing on the underlying emotions and the roots of conflict, we foster an environment where mutual respect and goal alignment can lead to beneficial outcomes for all involved, thus enhancing the overall health and productivity of the workplace.  

By implementing restorative circles, we create opportunities for open dialogue and understanding, allowing individuals to express their experiences and confront issues in a structured, supportive environment. This approach addresses the incidents and fosters a deeper sense of community and mutual respect among team members, which is essential for building a cohesive and inclusive workplace. 

Restorative practices are invaluable in fostering a culture where all members feel valued and empowered and offer a robust framework for enhancing organizational effectiveness. Their transformative potential extends beyond mere physical implementation; by embedding their philosophies and principles into everyday interactions and leadership strategies, these practices promote essential interconnectedness, balance, and collaboration across teams and the entire organization. The strategic integration of restorative practices cultivates a culture where empathy, understanding, and mutual respect are the main drivers of innovation and productivity.

Restorative practices address immediate conflicts and fundamentally transform organizational culture, promoting resilience, understanding, and collaboration.  By embedding these principles into everyday interactions and leadership strategies, we resolve disputes and foster a culture where mutual respect, empathy, and proactive engagement thrive. This strategic integration enhances organizational effectiveness, driving innovation and productivity through a human- centered approach.

This approach does not insist on deep personal connections but fosters functional, respectful relationships that align with broader organizational goals.  As a practitioner, my application of RP in addressing workplace challenges has resolved conflicts and strengthened the communal fabric of the organizations involved.

As we move forward, adopting restorative practices represents a significant cultural shift towards nurturing environments where individuals feel valued and empowered. This paradigm shift is about resolving conflicts and creating an inclusive, empathetic workplace where every member can thrive. This commitment to fostering a restorative organizational culture is beneficial and essential for sustainable growth and long-term success in today’s complex and interconnected world.


Garnett, B. R., Kervick, C. T., Moore, M., Ballysingh, T. A., & Smith, L. C. (2022). School staff and youth perspectives of tier 1 restorative practices classroom circles. School Psychology Review, 51(1), 112-126. doi:

Gregory, A., Huang, F., & Ward-Seidel, A. R. (2022). Evaluation of the whole school restorative practices project: One-year impact on discipline incidents. Journal of school psychology, 95, 58-71.

Howard, B. L. (2022). Supervising restoratively: Narratives of applying restorative practices in supervision in residential life. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 59(3), 309-323. doi:

Lappalainen, P. (2020). Walking and talking sensors: Conceptualising restorative leadership to enhance people management education in engineering. European Journal of Engineering Education, 45(3), 473-490. doi:

Marcucci, O. (2021). Why restorative justice works in schools: An investigation into the interactional dynamics of restorative circles. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 31, 100561.

Norris H. The impact of restorative approaches on well-being: An evaluation of happiness and engagement in schools. Conflict Resolution Quarterly. 2019; 36: 221-234.

Neale, N. R., Butterfield, K. D., Goodstein, J., & Tripp, T. M. (2020). Managers’ Restorative Versus Punitive Responses to Employee Wrongdoing: A Qualitative Investigation. Journal of Business Ethics, 161(3), 603–625.

Reimer, K. (2018). “The kids do a better job of it than we do”: A canadian case study of teachers addressing the hypocritical application of restorative justice in their school. Australian Educational Researcher, 1-15. doi:

Rees, E., & Hobson, J. (2021). Restorative practice in the criminal justice system: Examining a restorative reasoning programme in a Women’s prison. Laws, 10(4), 95. doi:

Grossi, P. K., & dos Santos, A. M. (2012). Bullying in brazilian schools and restorative practices. Canadian Journal of Education, 35(1), 120-136. Retrieved from

Wailling, J., Kooijman, A., Hughes, J., & O’Hara, J.,K. (2022). Humanizing harm: Using a restorative approach to heal and learn from adverse events. Health Expectations, 25(4), 1192-1199. doi:


Abayomi Ajaiyeoba

Abayomi Ajaiyeoba has practiced law primarily in the public sector for over seventeen years. Believing in the transformative power of mindfulness, restorative practices, wellness, and holistic approaches, she dedicates herself to these principles. Abayomi is an experienced litigator, certified mediator, and arbitrator.  She is also a certified Restorative Circle Keeper,… MORE >

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