What is mediation in the workplace?
Mediation is a process used for resolving disputes in which the mediator helps parties negotiate a settlement. It is future-focused and less concerned with who is right or wrong and concentrates on solving problems so that they do not occur again. The parties retain responsibility for achieving a solution.
The mediator in the course of a day, or sometimes through a series of meetings, will discuss the issues with both parties. First, he will establish the facts and the real issues troubling the parties before starting to explore possible means to a settlement and finally records the agreement that the parties have reached.
When should it be used?
It can be used at any time in the whole process from the time when HR becomes aware of the conflict, at any time during the grievance procedure, after the formal decision has been made (as often that will not solve the underlying conflict) and even during an Employment Tribunal case.
Unfortunately, in the market place, there is still the old fashioned but wrong attitude that mediation is a “last resort”. At Developer Man we advocate that mediation is used as a "first", not a "last", resort and not “after the event”. If used towards the end of the grievance process there is the risk that the attitudes of the employees have become entrenched and despite HR's best attempts to keep matters confidential, the issues are usually in the public domain and there is the issue of losing face.
At Developer Man we promote that organizations should move their conflict procedures "upstream" to use the mediation process at the beginning of the conflict.
It is clear that the earlier a dispute is settled the better it will normally be for all concerned. There will be less disruption to business, the lives of the employees (leaving them to concentrate on their business roles), and the associated costs. For these reasons mediation should be used at an early stage to resolve employee conflict situations before they become either formal or subject to grievance /disciplinary proceedings
What issues are suitable for a workplace mediation?
Any issue which is causing conflict or distress in the working but below we list some of the areas
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual or racial discrimination
- Interpersonal difficulties
- Inappropriate behaviour
- Management of change
- Power struggles
- Under performance issues
- Absence from stress
- Equality of pay and grading, terms and conditions, flexible working
- Employment claims of unfair dismissal arising from any of the above issues
Our approach to the mediation is to facilitate a settlement based on
- Voluntary attendance of the parties
- All discussions being confidential to enable a party to discuss anything with the mediator
- Listening and understanding
- Encouraging and facilitating open and honest dialogue between the parties
- Allowing those difficult issues to be aired and strong feelings vented
- Not evaluating the strengths of the parties' cases and being judgmental
- Helping the parties to understand different points of view and to adapt to new ways of working
- To think laterally
- Focusing on finding a solution that is acceptable to both parties
- Finding a solution that works and that is not just applying a "sticking plaster" to a difficult problem
Why does mediation work?
It is a voluntary process controlled by the parties
Both parties are able to freely discuss their innermost concerns as the mediator talks with them in total confidence
As the mediator speaks to both parties he gets a full understanding of the real issues, not just those appearing on the surface
The mediator assists the party to identify the real issues that are causing them concern and to assist that party to find solutions to their problems
The mediator is able to ask both parties to reflect, ask them to at least try and understand the other party's position
In the knowledge of the full facts, the mediator has the opportunity to provide ideas to solve the conflict
The solution comes from the parties, it is not imposed on them
What are the advantages of mediation?
- It's quick
- It gets people talking
- It saves money
- It's flexible
- Mediation does not affect statutory or human rights
- It does not stop you from litigating
What can I expect?
- A relaxed atmosphere where the process will be applied with care and sensitivity
- You will have the opportunity to and will be invited to express your feelings and concerns
- To discuss matters in total confidence
- To be asked to reflect on what has happened from a different perspective
- To be invited to look forward and find solutions
What mediation is not
- It is not a soft and fluffy option. It involves a period of concentrated negotiation that requires focus, persistence, the agility of thought, flexibility and imagination. It is hard work for everyone involved intellectually, physically and emotionally
- It is not counselling. The mediator preserves a neutral relationship with the parties and applies problem-solving techniques. Counselling may be one of the solutions of the mediation
- It is not a day in court. The mediator is there to facilitate a settlement and not to pronounce a judgment.
- It is not a waste of time and money. Even if the settlement is not reached and litigation follows, both parties will have a far better understanding of not only their case but their opponents and will have narrowed and defined the issues between them.
What types of solution are envisaged?
- A written settlement agreement
- Apologies and explanations
- Improvements for future communication
- Changes to systems and procedures
- Revised job descriptions
- Timetabled action plans
- Review meetings
- The advice of Acas and the CIPD
Will any information be disclosed to the participant's line manager(s)?
What can we do if one party does not wish to participate?
LET’S WORK TOGETHER , START YOUR PROJECT, NOW!
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