The Work Studies Institute
Workplace mediations are voluntary, confidential, and informal processes in which an unbiased mediator facilitates communication between the individuals in dispute, hence assisting them in developing mutual agreements, which are acceptable and which would improve their future working affiliation. Mediation is effective in both non-union and union settings, including each level of the organization.
Workplace mediation provides important benefits to employees and employers alike. It facilitates mutually satisfactory resolutions, which are creative and fast. A dispute that is mediated immediately upon arising has greater chances of optimal resolution, since differences between the parties have not had a chance to aggravate. Similarly, at such junctures, the situation is usually more fluid with the disputing parties having more resolution options at hand. Mediated resolutions last longer and work better than authoritatively imposed resolutions, since all parties involved have a stake and buy into them.
Furthermore, through improved communication, mediation encourages mutual respect and can preserve and mend broken working relationships in the event that parties are extremely angry and hurt. With respect to mediation within perspectives of litigation, it is very different from mediation within the context of the workplace. The primary objective of workplace mediation is to leave the parties concerned in a better working position such that they are able to work together. The traditional settlement mechanism, whereby mediators separate the parties and juggle back and forth between them, is not adequate to this task.
Workplace mediation is to leave the parties concerned in a better working position such that they are able to work together. The traditional settlement mechanism, whereby mediators separate the parties and juggle back and forth between them, is not adequate to this task.
Parties in conflict in workplaces need to work out their differences together. Most disputes arise out of the failure by either party to consider or understand the interests or needs of the other, or even to communicate. Most people fix their primary attention on the fundamental question of who is wrong and who is right. In doing so, they render themselves blind to the enormous possibilities that they both may have a legitimate and correct point of view. The primary task of the mediator is to open communications between conflicting parties and establish the reasons for the various positions they have taken with respect to each other. Mediators assist the conflicting parties to comprehend fully their own points of view in relation to the other party’s points of view with respect to the situation.
It is their primary responsibility to assist and enable the conflicting parties to look at the dispute through a different point of view. In doing so, they are faced with the task of answering pertinent questions such as: “What is the most practical matter, which will be workable in relation to the situation?” “What do they perceive will be the best honor, which will promote the best working relationship?” “With respect to fairness and justice, what do they think or perceive will be fair and just?” As the parties gradually gain an expanded comprehension of the situation, they slowly increase their ability to work together towards resolving the problem, which will continue even after the resolution.
Workplace mediations of low complexity are generally completed in a single day after which a follow-up session is planned one to three months after. A mediator is supposed to consult in advance with the representative of an organization in order to clarify expectations specifically regarding confidentially and also obtaining information on the synopsis and history of the conflict including reporting back. The mediator is then supposed to meet with each individual for a sufficient number of hours, in order to understand the prevailing issues from each individual’s point of view.
After this, if the disputants are willing, the mediator can then bring the conflicting parties together for a transparent face-to-face mediation session, which will last for some few hours. In order to encourage clarification of the pertinent issues and to also promote constructive communication, the mediation meeting between the two parties is structured in a number of steps, in order to assist the disputants to come up with and agree on mutually acceptable agreements regarding the best way forward. Such voluntary agreements are then recorded at the end of the mediation process. Such agreements provide a strong basis for a follow-up meeting between either of the conflicting parties and the mediator at some point in the future in order to assess how the agreements are working out.
Effectiveness of Mediation
Virtually any differences, which arise in the workplace have the potential of benefiting from mediation if the concerned parties are ready and willing to directly deal with each other and also if the company has structures in place, which provide the needed resources for mediation. Over time, a workplace whereby mediation is the preferred dispute resolution mechanism has the potential of becoming a workplace whereby colleagues gradually need less assistance in resolving their differences and initiate a process of becoming natural collaborators.
There are certain common workplace conflicts, where it is necessary for companies to seek mediation. These include terminations, deteriorating performance, disputes among employees, and sexual harassment (Weinstein, 2001). It is commonly assumed that parties involved in sexual harassments cannot resolve their disputes and work together. Such an assumption is a potentially great disservice to the parties concerned. Most hostile environment complaints emerge as a result of the differences in perception about what is offensive behavior, what is flattering or funny, or the failure of one individual to either understand or respect the other.
As much as not all conflicts can be resolved, there is an option of changing the perceptions held by the conflicting parties to the betterment of all parties concerned. In this regard, mediation provides a comprehensive understanding of appreciating what is right and wrong within ethical, legal, and moral frameworks.
"Dealing effectively with conflict in the workplace has become a critical function in public and private organizations. Employers and employees are increasingly turning towards mediation to avoid costly and time-consuming litigation. Mediation has been successfully applied to many types of workplace disputes, including grievances, EEO complaints, superior / subordinate problems, and peer conflicts."
- US Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, November 2006
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field, I will meet you there”
- Rumi, 13th Century, Persian Poet
The Mediator is equipped to expertly resolve conflicts with and between employees that otherwise may escalate into costly formal disputes — grievances, EEO complaints, litigation. Conflict between employees or teams.
Corporations, government agencies, and institutions of all kinds and sizes are discovering the immense benefits of using mediation instead of adversarial methods of resolving workplace conflicts. The financial cost of unresolved conflict is high — and it is measurable — and takes an enormous toll on organizations. Costs associated with litigation, grievances, and other complaint processes can be significantly reduced by early use of mediation, which prevents escalation of workplace conflicts to formal disputes. Calculate the return on investment in mediation training.
Mediation not only provides a mechanism for early resolution of many problems; it will help increase productivity, save time and money, create a safer and more harmonious workplace, and promote improved day-to-day relationships.
Workplaces are now confronted with increasing rates of violence and crime. It is important to know how to manage negative and aggressive behavior and prevent workplace violence.
I am available for consultations. Quotes available upon request. (MTI, 2014)