Workplace mediation is an effective way of addressing conflict that undermines happy and productive teams. Research shows that if conflict festers and escalates, it impacts on people’s wellbeing and productivity. The resulting cost to employers from sickness absence, resignations, lost productivity and management time is considerable.
Traditional grievance and disciplinary processes tend to prolong the stress. In seeking to apportion blame, they often do further damage to relationships. They soak up management time too, adding to employers’ costs.
In contrast, workplace mediation can restore harmony between colleagues and teams quickly at low cost. It supports people through a fair process to address problems together and agree a way forward.
A lasting solution
Mediation gives colleagues an opportunity to be heard and to listen. They stand to gain understanding about what has happened and clarity about the future. It provides a chance to re-set a relationship, come to a decision, or agree an action plan to address a problem. Solutions that people create together through mediation are more likely to last.
We always work as a pair and have a professional but warm approach. Our mediation meetings are focused and supportive, giving clients the best chance of a positive, lasting outcome.
Read on for further guidance on the use of mediation for workplace conflict.
A brief guide to mediation
The following may help you to decide whether and when to use mediation to address conflict 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 employers time and money and produces lasting results. For those involved, it offers a swift end to the stress of conflict and ensures their energies are focused in the right place.
Mediation has a role to play in initiatives to promote diversity & inclusion and staff well-being. It is a great example of how empathetic approaches to problems can lead to valuable business outcomes. Read more about the business case for mediation.
Mediation can address different kinds of conflict in the workplace. It works for two or more colleagues or whole teams if they are willing to give it a try and they have the authority to resolve matters (or some of them). Issue we commonly address include:
- ‘personality clashes’
- bullying or harrassment
- problem behaviour
- poor collaboration
- break-down in communication
- allegations of discrimination
- team dysfunction
- disagreement on direction, priorities or methods
- turf wars
There are instances when mediation may not be appropriate. This may be where there is a large power imbalance or a personal safety issue, for example.
Where one or both conflict parties decline the opportunity of mediation but there is a will to resolve things, we offer a 1:1 session to help clients identify solo strategies for improving the situation. We adhere to the principles of mediation in these meetings which enable clients to reflect, consider what they can do to improve things and to action-plan.
Conflict or disagreements at work are inevitable from time to time. People can often sort things out one-to-one or with timely help from a manager or colleague. But there will be occasions when that doesn’t work and conflict undermines a healthy work environment.
Perhaps the issue has recurred or escalated, or those involved can no longer talk to each other. If several people are involved, or there are a jumble of issues, it may be difficult to get to the bottom of the problem. Sometimes an outsider is needed to assure people of objectivity or confidentiality. These are the kinds of circumstances when an independent mediator is invaluable.
Using an independent mediator is at its most cost-effective when initial attempts to resolve matters have failed but before things have escalated. But we can achieve progress even in long-standing conflicts if there is a shared desire for change.
How can mediation fit with grievance procedures?
Best practice guidance on managing workplace conflict suggests that grievance (and disciplinary) procedures should be used only as a last resort. Mediation can be offered as an alternative, giving people the chance to see if they can resolve things quickly between themselves first. Where formal processes have been used however, mediation can be used as a follow-up to repair a working relationship.
Workplace mediation can be used as a stand-alone intervention, or to complement change programmes or development initiatives.
Put simply, mediation is an informal process in which a neutral third party enables people in conflict to work out a mutually acceptable way forward.
The principles of mediation give participants confidence in the process. It is:
- voluntary – so that everyone is there in good faith;
- confidential – enabling openness and insight;
- impartial – so that participants feel they are being treated fairly;
- neutral – so that participants trust that the mediator/s have no ‘agenda’.
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.
- won’t force participation, take sides, make judgements, apportion blame, offer suggestions, make decisions for the parties, force an agreement.
Mediation is flexible, but a typical path is as follows:
- Referral. We consider 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 remain impartial.
- Pre-mediation call. We contact each participant to explain mediation, answer questions and check their commitment.
- Stage one. We meet privately with each participant to hear their perspective, identify their needs and goals, and prepare to meet with the other(s).
- Stage two. We bring the participants together in a two-part meeting. Points of agreement, including future actions to help move things forward, are recorded and made firm.
- Post-mediation. We send the agreement 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. We follow-up with the participants at agreed intervals to support progress.
We provide mediation by video conferencing (Zoom) or in-person, depending on the circumstances. In-person mediations will be held in a neutral venue away from the participants’ usual workplace. We recognise that finding affordable 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 £895 for a full process. We don’t charge VAT. Any venue costs would be 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. This is particularly the case where there are more than two clients or the issues are complex. It means we can work flexibly to ensure people get the most out of it.
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
People 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 speak to the mediator, they are often willing to give it a try. Feel free to contact us today to discuss your situation.
Equip your staff with tools and techniques to deal effectively with conflict situations at work.