What is workplace mediation?

Mediation is a method for facilitating constructive dialogue between employees whose working relationship has broken down.

This may have happened for a variety of reasons - misunderstandings, personality clashes, competition for resources or status, boundary or "turf" issues, tactless behaviour, real or perceived unfair treatment or discrimination, bullying or harassment, stress arising from overwork, differences over task priorities - to name but a few.

It can occur between people of equal status within the organisation, or between manager and employee. It can happen at any level, from shop floor to board room. It is often combined with practical problems and issues concerning day to day working.

A degree of healthy competition at work can be a good thing, but if it degenerates into resentment, disputes and discontent, this can sour the working atmosphere, staff may go sick because of work-related stress, and morale and productivity may suffer.

For the employer all of this carries costs, and it may be compounded by management time being diverted into dealing with the problem - particularly where the symptoms are visible but the cause is not clearly understood.

If you are facing this kind of situation, you may want to consider calling on the services of an independent mediator as a means of finding a constructive way forward. But before you do, you'll want to understand a little more about how mediation works in practice. Here's an outline of the process:

Preparation

The joint mediation meeting

  • The mediator will meet you or speak with you on the phone to get basic information about the situation and why you want to consider mediation.
  • If you then decide to go ahead, the mediator will speak with both parties by phone to explain the process and prepare them for the mediation.
  • All parties will be asked to sign a pre-mediation agreement including a confidentiality clause.
  • On the day of the mediation the mediator will meet each of the parties separately for an hour to hear their narrative of the conflict.
  • The parties will then have time to prepare alone what they want to say to eachother.
  • The mediator will then have a shorter second meeting with each, to hear what they have prepared and discuss this with them.

 

  • The mediator opens the meeting and obtains agreement to the groundrules such as openness, respect and readiness to listen to the other person's point of view.
  • Uninterrupted speaking time: each of the parties has the opportunity to explain their feelings and perceptions while the other party listens.
  • The mediator summarises what each has said and moves the mediation on to the dialogue stage.
  • The mediator uses his experience and skills to help the parties to communicate, understand each other and to find common ground.
  • The parties consider options for moving forward. The mediator helps the parties to find a solution which meets their mutual needs and interests.
  • The agreement is recorded in a written action plan.

Most mediations between two parties can be completed in a single day. If there are more than two parties involved, the mediation may need more time.

When to use it

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