Workplace mediation has significant benefits for individuals, but also their teams, line management and the wider organisation. Research from the CIPD shows that individuals will wrestle with a dispute or difficult relationship at work for at least six months before taking any action (such as speaking to HR). Experiences of conflict can lead to low morale, sickness, stress, absenteeism and decline in productivity. Management time spent on disputes can escalate quickly and it can easily start to affect wider team members. It can lead to staff turnover, and ultimately reputational damage. ACAS estimates that formal grievances cost around £9,000. HR professionals conducting grievances will appreciate how these costs accumulate (loss of productivity, management time, sickness absence, legal costs etc), before you reach any potential settlement! Mediation can cost a fraction of this! Mediation can be an extremely quick and cost-effective way to head all the negative aspects of conflict off at the pass.
Workplace mediation is an informal voluntary process where the parties are assisted by a mediator to facilitate the resolution of a workplace issue. Although considered informal, it still has a structured approach. It enables the parties involved in conflict to hold open conversations that would normally be too difficult to have and to understand and empathise with each other’s emotions and situations.
Mediation explores the parties’ issues and concerns and use joint problem-solving to find a solution that each side feels is fair and encourages communication to establish improved and sustainable workable relationships.
Skilled mediation can help participants develop the skills to resolve workplace difficulties for themselves in future.
Any grievance process will be temporarily suspended whilst the mediator conducts a series of protected ‘without prejudice’ conversations with the parties.
Most mediation takes place in the context of a workplace dispute between two or more parties, for example:-
A breakdown in communication
Unclear role boundaries
Different working styles
Bullying and Harassment
Research indicates that mediation has a 93% success rate. However, if it doesn’t work then any grievance process is resumed (the discussions in mediation remain confidential and without prejudice, i.e., what is discussed in the mediation can’t be used in the grievance process by either party). Mediation can be used to define which issues are in dispute and which are not and can directly and indirectly educate and train the parties in a method and style of decision making which can be used for the future. This role can be very important in an environment where conflict is common, and the parties dispute resolution skills are limited.
There is nothing to lose by trying mediation as the whole process is conducted on an entirely ‘Without Prejudice’ and confidential basis.
If an agreement is not reached employment rights are not compromised for any party (including the employer!!)
Mediation is normally organised very quickly; most issues are resolved inside a day or two.
Parties can speak openly and freely in a confidential setting to an independent and neutral mediator. Just being able to do this provides immense relief to the parties and can have a positive impact on their wellbeing in what has likely been a stressful situation
Mediation is more informal and less adversarial than other dispute processes. It is a less stressful process than a court or tribunal process
Mediation can deal with the situation where neither party wants to make the first move for fear of appearing to be weak or to blame
Mediation involves simple procedures and provides opportunity for creative agreement which a grievance, tribunal or court could not impose
Mediation offers potential time and financial savings and free us management to focus on business needs and development
Reduces anxiety and other negative effects of the situation so that informed and rational conversations and decisions can be made
Encourages the parties to take responsibility for the situation and the consequences of their decisions
Provide parties with a model, and some skills and techniques, for future decision making without third party assistance
No precedent is set by an agreement reached in mediation
Mediation improves communication between the parties and may encourage them to adopt a more co-operative approach in their future dealings
Mediation can help to drive a conflict resolution culture within your business
The parties may not agree to participate
It is another layer of cost
A typical mediation process could entail:
Pre-Mediation Contact (usually by telephone between mediator and individual parties)
*To agree the terms of the mediation and sign a ‘mediation agreement’
*To explain the mediation process and put the parties at ease
*To build rapport with the parties in advance of the mediation
Private and Confidential Meetings between the mediator and each individual party
*The mediation will be held in an agreed neutral location
*The mediator will explore each party’s position and interests to ensure it is understood
*These will help the parties understand and gain perspective of each other’s position and interests
*Help the parties to reframe and be future focused towards an agreed solution and relationship
*Coach and support the parties towards a joint mediation meeting
Joint Mediation Meeting
*The mediator controls a joint meeting of the parties and reminds the parties of the ‘ground rules’ for mediation (e.g., voluntary, confidential, ‘without prejudice’ and mutual respect). This normally happens on the same day or very quickly after the private individual meetings with the parties
*Mediator will remind parties that any notes made by them (and the mediator) will be destroyed at the end of the mediation
*Each party has regular opportunity to speak with guidance and support from the mediator which hopefully results in a ‘flowing discussion’ between the parties
*The mediator will guide the parties through solutions or actions they have identified towards a written ‘Mediation Action Plan’ that both parties will sign
*Where achievable will draft the ‘Mediation Action Plan’ and provide it to the parties for approval and signature.
*Engagement and implementation of the action plan is key. In signing the action plan the parties give their commitment
*The mediator will make recommendations to the employer for follow up support to the parties (i.e., management support or coaching)
*The mediator will contact the employer to ‘check in’ and get an update as to the current position.
*If required (though not likely in most cases) can revisit a mediation if the agreement goes ‘off track