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Help! When should I be using workplace mediation?

View profile for Tony Hughes
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This is the third article in a series dealing with workplace mediation. In the other two I have explored:

Imagine that you are the manager of a team within the workplace, or the chair of a Board of Trustees, and that you have identified conflict between one or more colleagues in the group. Or perhaps you are an HR professional consulted by an organisation where conflict is the problem. When would mediation be appropriate?

Identifying suitable situations for workplace mediation

In general, workplace mediation can be used to resolve any “discontent arising from a perceived clash of interests". For example,

  • Informal and formal “complaints” and other matters which would otherwise be addressed through grievance or investigative procedures;
  • Conflict at board level;
  • Situations in which high emotion is involved;
  • Where the parties wish to remain in work. Even more importantly, where the organisation wants both parties to remain in work;
  • Clashes in values or personality;
  • Organisational changes, new working practices;
  • Ongoing relationship is desirable;
  • When other options have failed;
  • When the issues are in the parties’ control;
  • When the stakes are high.

Inevitably it will involve at least two parties, but its flexibility is particularly good where more than two parties are involved. However, in all cases, the parties involved must consent to the process.

In some situations, where mediation is potentially beneficial, it can be helpful for the mediator to have preliminary conversations with one or more of the parties in order to explain the process and provide reassurance about any concerns.

Situations where it may not be appropriate

  • Allegations of potentially criminal conduct or serious misconduct
  • Health and Safety issues
  • Where one of the parties declines (but see above – it can still be beneficial for the mediator to speak with the party)
  • The presence of severe mental health issues (at least not without appropriate safeguards)


The earlier the better…! Ideally, before the parties get bogged down in internal processes and before the conflict turns into a formal “dispute”.

Build it in

In order that mediation is triggered early, it should feature as an option in the various policies within the Staff Handbook, e.g. Grievance Procedure, Disciplinary Procedure, Internal Investigations.

If you would like to know more about workplace mediation, or if you have a conflict and you are wondering whether mediation would help, please call us and we would be happy to talk it through with you or to arrange a meeting.