Mediation in the workplace
Mediation is an effective way of resolving conflict at work. Its use by all kinds of employers has been increasing in recent years as they have seen the benefits for their staff and business.
As experienced interpersonal mediators with a wealth of prior experience, we bring adaptability, resilience and insight to our work. Combined with a strong professional ethos this helps to ensure that our mediation meetings are purposeful and supportive, giving the best chance of a positive outcome that lasts – and therefore value for your money. See the business case for using mediation in the workplace.
A brief guide to mediation
The following may help you to decide whether and when to use mediation in your workplace.
You are welcome to call us without obligation to discuss any aspect. We are enthusiastic advocates of mediation but we won’t mediate if we feel it is not suitable for the circumstances.
Mediation is an effective way of resolving conflict in the workplace. It saves organisations time and money and produces lasting results. For those directly and indirectly involved it offers a swift end to the stress of conflict and ensures their energies are focussed in the right place. Read more about the business case for mediation.
Mediation can address different kinds of conflict in the workplace, whether between two or more colleagues or whole teams, if everyone is willing to give it a try and they have the authority to resolve matters (or some of them) without permission from others:
- ‘personality clashes’
- team dysfunction
- problem behaviour
- poor collaboration
- break-down in communication
- disagreement on direction, priorities or methods
- turf wars
- allegations of discrimination
- bullying and harassment, in some circumstances.
There are instances when mediation may not be appropriate – when there is a large power imbalance or a personal safety issue, for example.
It is a rare working relationship that is not at some time marked by a degree of conflict – it is a natural and inevitable part of human interaction. Things can often be sorted out one-to-one or with timely help from a manager or colleague, but there will be occasions when that doesn’t work.
Perhaps the issue has recurred or escalated, those involved can no longer talk to each other, several people are involved, it’s difficult to get to the bottom of the problem, or an outsider is needed to ensure objectivity or confidentiality. These are the kinds of circumstances when an independent mediator is invaluable.
The use of an independent mediator is at its most cost-effective when initial attempts to resolve matters have failed and things are showing signs of spiralling, but we can help to achieve progress even in long-standing conflicts. Mediation can work if there is a shared desire for change.
It is also worth offering mediation as a step before formal grievance or disciplinary procedures, giving people the chance to see if they can resolve things quickly and informally first. It can also be used to follow up these processes where there is a need to repair a working relationship.
Mediation can be used as a stand-alone intervention, or to complement other processes such as change programmes, development initiatives.
Put simply, mediation is an informal process in which a neutral third party enables people in conflict to have a structured conversation about the issues that are important to them, and to work out a mutually acceptable way forward.
Mediation’s underlying principles help to give participants confidence in it; it is:
- voluntary – so that everyone is there in good faith
- confidential – enabling openness and thereby insight
- impartial – so that participants feel they are being treated fairly
- neutral – so that participants trust that the mediator/s are not influenced by anyone else and have no preferred outcome.
The mediator’s role
A skilled mediator
- will listen, reflect back, ask questions, challenge where necessary, identify areas of agreement/ disagreement, encourage, ask for ideas, balance contributions, and maintain safety throughout.
- won’t force participation, take sides, make judgements, apportion blame, offer suggestions, make decisions for the parties, force an agreement.
There is some flexibility in how mediation works, but a typical process is as follows:
- Referral. With the referrer, the mediator considers the background to the conflict, its suitability for mediation, and the logistics. If the referrer is a potential participant in mediation, we handle this stage with due care to ensure we remain impartial.
- Mediator contacts each participant to explain mediation and secure commitment.
- Arrangements made – date, time and neutral venue.
- On the day: in the morning each participant meets privately with the mediator/s to explore the situation, identify their needs and goals, and prepare to meet with the other(s). In the afternoon, the participants come together in a two-part meeting to discuss the issues and then potential solutions. Points of agreement, including future actions, are recorded and made firm.
- Post-mediation. The agreement is sent to participants and, with their consent, the referrer/manager. This is not a legal document but because everyone has helped to create it they tend to stick to it. The mediators follow-up with the participants at agreed intervals, eg one and three months, to check progress.
Ideally, in a neutral venue away from the participants’ usual workplace, with a private room for the mediation meetings, and an additional separate room for each participant. We recognise that finding suitable space can be tricky for small organisations in particular, but we can help with this.
Costs vary depending on the circumstances and practicalities of the case but we will agree a fee with you at the outset. Our fees for a workplace mediation start at £720. This covers 6.5 hours mediating time over a full day with two mediators, set-up, admin and follow-up. We don’t charge VAT. Any venue costs payable are extra as well as longer-distance travel.
We always mediate in pairs, unlike many other practices. We are skilled in co-mediating and believe that the abilities and energies of two mediators working effectively together give clients the best chance of a positive outcome, particularly where there are more than two clients or the issues are complex.
Contrast our fees with the costs of the alternatives. The business case for mediation will help you weigh up the options.
Taking the first step
Those caught up in conflict are sometimes reluctant to try mediation, perhaps because they feel things have gone too far or the other person won’t participate. Why not let us help with that? When people hear from someone neutral what mediation has to offer, they are often willing to give it a try. Feel free to contact us to see whether we can help.
Equip your staff with tools and techniques to deal effectively with conflict situations at work.