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Workplace Mediation Tips

Most employees will only ever mediate once, if at all, during the course of their career. Equally, many organisations generally do not use mediation as a matter of course so there is not a culture of early resolution embedded into the organisation. Rather, the majority of organisations use a grievance and disciplinary process that states that one person is right and one person is wrong and we assume that if we are not careful we may be “caught out”.

So, when faced with a proposed mediation, many people have the following concerns that will be addressed in this article, namely:

– My employer is trying to stitch me up 

– The mediator works for the company and is not going to be impartial

– Mediation will be used as an opportunity for my employer to bully me into agreeing to something I don’t want to agree to

– My employer says that they want to mediate one minute but are threatening me with criminal proceedings another”

Start from a position of strength

In situations that are tense, it is difficult to trust the intentions and motivations of the “other side”. This may be based on experience so agreeing to mediation and, indeed, a mediator becomes difficult.

However, it is important to start from a position of strength and consider whether mediation may help the situation. This will be the case if, even if there is no trust between the parties, the situation could benefit from:

  • An opportunity for channels of communication to be opened up safely
  • An environment in which judgment is momentarily suspended
  • A structure and agreed boundaries for conversations and negotiations
  • Some new or creative thinking
  • A no-obligation opportunity to work through options for resolution
  • The intervention of an independent third party
  • Clarification of assumptions

Often I have encountered situations that parties have felt were bhopeless but, due to the opportunities that mediation provides solutions have been found. Often people propose mediation in good faith as they can identify, as a party that it the opportunity for an external party to provide a helping hand to achieve success within the situation.

Make the mediation work for you

Any good mediator will be committed to “omnipartiality” i.e. being on the side of both of the parties. To work with a mediator, you will need to trust them. The best way to do this is:

  • Ask the mediator to explain the process and ensure you are clear about what to expect
  • Ask the mediator how they ensure confidentiality
  • Ask the mediator about their impartiality – most mediators will stake their reputation on impartiality and confidentiality 
  • Ask the mediator how you can best prepare for the mediation process
  • Talk to the mediator about concerns you have
  • If you are not satisfied, discuss the option of having an alternative choice of mediator

Be prepared

Ask the mediator what you need to prepare before the mediation and make sure that you do this in good time to allow you to take some thinking time. This may include:

  • Clarifying what you want to get from the process
  • Thinking through what the alternatives might be if you don’t get what you want
  • Making sure you have all the relevant information to make choices
  • Clarifying what your boundaries are and how you want to be treated
  • Thinking about where you may be able to give something to the other party
  • Thinking about what you could change or do differently
  • Taking advice from colleagues, friends or even lawyers

Mediation is a process designed to put the parties back in charge of the situation and to make decisions based on the fullness of the circumstances.  A professional mediator’s primary motivation will be ensure that the process works by upholding the principles of impartiality and confidentiality, and that the parties are given every opportunity to get the most out of it. If this happens all parties achieve the best result possible.

We provide a variety of bespoke and off the shelf training options. You can contact us to find out more or take a look at our Conflict Resolution Training page.