Jill Lopez: Workplace Mediation

Mediation is an informal, voluntary process in which an impartial person, trained in facilitation and negotiation techniques, helps the parties reach a mutually acceptable resolution.

Mediation helps in tackling the underlying causes of disputes, rather than superficially patching over the problem.

Disputes can often start with a minor problem which 
then escalates into a more serious conflict. The disruption that occurs as a result can have a significant effect on the entire workforce, with serious financial implications. Thus the early intervention, that mediation offers, is important to prevent formal complaints procedures from beginning.

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation provides an early opportunity for those in dispute to communicate with one another in a private, safe and secure environment. It addresses head-on the business of creating and restoring respectful workplace relationships.

The benefits include:

  • The creation of smart solutions involving the appropriate people

  • Amicable resolution of most situations in just a day or two

  • A prompt return of employees to productive work

  • The creation and recovery of positive working relationships

  • The safe-guarding of management time

  • The protection of employees well-being, mental health and dignity

  • Confidential and discrete support

Workplace conflict

Conflict in the workplace can take many forms from serious flare-ups to less obvious but as destructive under-currents of negativity.

Signs that might indicate a problem include:

• Poor communication and lack of cooperation

• Rudeness and sarcasm

• Blaming and passing the buck

• Argumentativeness

• Anger and intimidation

• Harassment, discrimination and bullying

The side effects of unresolved conflict can be:

• Increased depression

• Decreased productivity

• Reduced quality of work

• Lateness for work

• Inappropriate sick leave

 • Absenteeism

The Mediatior's role

The mediator can defuse hostile attitudes and remedy miscommunications. The mediator assists and guides the parties toward their own solution by helping them to define the important issues and understand each other’s interests. The mediator focuses each side on the crucial factors necessary for settlement and on the consequences of not settling.

The mediator helps the parties to clearly view matters 
previously distorted by anger and emotion, this aids the exploration of creative and innovative solutions that might never have been contemplated.

The mediation process

Mediation is flexible and creative. It allows all parties to stand back and reassess their respective positions.

Usually the parties meet to discuss the issues individually with the mediator and then face to face, with the mediator present, to help the discussions stay focused and productive.

Mediation moves the parties through negotiation to a positive agreed outcome.

The approach to workplace conflict uses psychological theory to:

  • Get beneath the surface
  • Explore the underlying problems
  • Uncover the real motivators of the dispute
  • Generate working solutions
  • Promote continued relationships
  • Provide a positive future focus

Conflict is managed by revealing the underlying deadlock that prevents a dispute from reaching a satisfactory conclusion. This allows for discussion of the real issues, for the development of a shared understanding and for the clear and honest communication of feelings between the parties.

The parties consequently move forward into a solution focused mind-set and mutual agreements are achieved.