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Workplace mediation - What's that all about?

View profile for Tony Hughes
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As its name suggests, this term refers to the use of mediation to resolve conflict in the workplace. In this, the first of a series of three articles, I will set out what mediation is and how workplace mediation work. In later articles I will deal with the following: -

  • Why it is better to appoint an external mediator;
  • Why workplace conflict is a distraction and when you should be using workplace mediation to resolve it

What is true mediation?

The word mediation is often misunderstood, particularly in relation to its use in the workplace and its interaction with what one might call “good management practice”.

In 2014, CEDR revised its definition of mediation to read as follows.

“Mediation is a flexible process conducted confidentially in which a neutral person actively assists parties in working towards a negotiated agreement of a dispute or difference, with the parties in ultimate control of the decision to settle and the terms of resolution.”

Crucially, the mediation process offers something materially different to management intervention, and this can have a number of benefits, when it comes to achieving good outcomes.

How does workplace mediation work?

Once HR or management has realised that they face a situation which mediation may help to resolve they need to find and appoint a mediator. There are many people who profess to offer this kind of service, but, for best results, use a mediator with workplace mediation accreditation and experience. Once the mediator has been appointed, s/he will guide the organisation through the process which essentially involves the following phases.

  • Informal contact with each of the parties, to explain process and fix initial meetings;
  • Mediator will meet each party separately and in private to discuss the conflict;
  • Parties attend joint meeting with mediator. Sometimes the mediator will break up this meeting to resume private sessions again;
  • The aim of the process is to reach a mutually agreed statement of intentions or actions plan;
  • The mediator will follow up with the parties to encourage progress with implementing the plan.

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.