Workplace mediation is an effective way of addressing conflict between colleagues, keeping teams happy and productive. By dealing with problems quickly and constructively it avoids the damage and cost of conflict that is left to fester or escalate.
Traditional grievance and disciplinary processes tend to prolong the stress. They pit people against each other. 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 short, 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 are able to get a better understanding about what has happened and why. 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.
As mediation can be challenging, we always work as a pair to provide excellent support to clients. Our professional but warm approach and focused meetings give the best chance of a positive, lasting outcome.
You are welcome to call us without obligation to discuss your situation. We won’t recommend mediation is we feel it is not appropriate.
A brief guide to mediation
The following may help you to decide whether and when to use mediation to address conflict in your workplace.
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 wellbeing. 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. They need to be willing to give it a try and have the authority to resolve matters (or some of them). Issues we commonly address include:
- ‘personality clashes’
- bullying or harrassment
- problem behaviour
- poor collaboration
- break-down in communication
- fall-outs between friends
- 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.
Sometimes one or both parties decline the opportunity of mediation. For these cases we offer a 1:1 session to help them identify solo strategies for improving the situation. It enables clients to reflect, consider how to move forward 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 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 provide objectivity or confidentiality. These are the kinds of circumstances when an independent expert mediator is invaluable.
The best time to use independent mediation is when initial attempts to resolve matters have failed but before things have escalated. However, it 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 employers should use grievance (and disciplinary) procedures only as a last resort. They can offer mediation as an alternative. It gives people the chance to see if they can resolve things quickly together with expert support. Where formal processes have been used however, mediation is suitable as a follow-up to repair a working relationship.
Workplace mediation can be a one-off intervention, or used to support change programmes.
Mediation is an informal process in which a neutral third party enables people in conflict to work out a mutually acceptable way forward.
- voluntary – so that everyone is there in good faith.
- confidential – enabling people to be open and gain insight.
- impartial – so that everyone feels 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 and identify areas of agreement/ disagreement. They will also encourage, ask for ideas, balance contributions, and maintain safety throughout.
- won’t take sides, make judgements, blame or offer suggestions. They won’t make decisions for the parties, or force 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, we handle this stage with care so that we 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 person. We hear their perspective, help them clarify their needs and goals, and prepare to meet with the other(s).
- Stage two. If everyone agrees, the participants then come together in a structured meeting. We help them to air the issues and focus on how to move forward. We keep things constructive and record points of agreement, including future actions.
- Post-mediation. Afterwards, we send the agreement to participants and, if they wish, 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 online (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 can help with finding affordable venues if needed.
Costs vary depending on the circumstances of the case but we will agree a fee with you at the outset. Our fees for a workplace mediation start at £950 for a full process. We don’t charge VAT. Any venue costs would be extra as well as longer-distance travel.
We always mediate as a pair, unlike many other practices. We are skilled and experienced in co-mediating and believe this gives 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 it is 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.