What is mediation?
Mediation is a tool used to resolve conflict in the workplace. It involves utilising an impartial third party (the mediator) to create a safe space for the parties involved to openly discuss the conflict in a confidential setting, to understand the other party’s point of view and to help everyone come to an agreement on how to positively move forward. A mediator is not there to decide who’s right or wrong, their role is to help everyone involved find a mutually acceptable solution to a conflict.
How does it work?
Mediation is a voluntary process which gives a structured approach to solving conflict, but in a less formal way than a disciplinary or grievance procedure. The mediator will firstly meet with each party to find out what they want to gain from the mediation and what their experience of the conflict is. These meetings will be held with each party separately, and during the meeting, the mediator will try to get agreement for a future joint meeting, which the mediator will facilitate.
In the joint meeting, each party will explain their story and listen to the other party recount their own story of the events that have unfolded. The parties will work to find a mutually acceptable solution and this agreement will be signed by both parties. The outcome might include a commitment to change behaviours, to review policies and procedures, to share work more fairly or a commitment to regularly review the agreement reached.
A mediator’s role will be to ensure that all parties have had the opportunity to explain what the conflict is and how it has affected them. They will guide conversations from focussing on the past to thinking about how to move forward. According to the CIPD, a central part of mediation is to help the parties involved think more about the issues that need to be addressed (i.e. ‘I want to feel supported, not undermined by my colleagues’.), and less about the positions they adopt in conflict (i.e. I can never trust you again’).
Why might mediation be helpful?
Mediation can be helpful for several reasons, related to employee wellbeing, avoiding difficult grievance procedures, reducing future workload and reducing potential tribunal costs.
When a working relationship is damaged in some way, it can be difficult for the parties involved to find a healthy way to move forward on their own. If a problem is allowed to fester, this can create a lot of stress for an individual and can impact the working environment. A mediator will help to uncover and address the problems, including identifying underlying issues, to encourage all parties to find a compromise that everyone can agree to.
Allowing a workplace problem to fester will have a similar outcome to a medical infection being left untreated – the issue will escalate and require more serious treatment. An employee may raise a grievance and/or a disciplinary process may need to be organised. This is likely to increase the stress of the situation and will increase the time and money spent finding a resolution. In the worst cases, a business may have to deal with a tribunal and its associated costs.
Of course, mediation will not always be appropriate. If the problem potentially relates to criminal activity, if the parties involved do not have the remit to solve the problem or if it involves harassment/discrimination, a different process will be needed.
At View HR, we have two trained mediators, Gemma and Heidi who can offer an impartial mediation service. Please contact us to discuss whether mediation could help you with a workplace conflict.