Why Mediate?

Organisations choose to mediate for any number of reasons, at the top of their list is generally cost efficiency.

A typical mediation would involve no more than a day of face-to-face meetings with some phone calls leading up to and after the mediation. So imagine you have two team members embroiled in a conflict that absorbs the time, energy and resources of the team, the manager and support functions for weeks, often months on end – which by the way is pretty normal.

The opportunity cost of NOT resolving that conflict will be reflected in increased stress-related absenteeism, staff turnover, decreased engagement and morale.

The conflict will interfere with thinking time, productivity and if not addressed properly will generate a cultural norm that will pervade the department and organisation.

Addressing organisational conflict through mediation will save time and money and contribute to a culture where conflict is a catalyst for new ideas rather than an excuse to leave.

What are the benefits of mediation?

I could be some time here, but here are the most important ones;

  • Huge reduction in stress-related illness and absenteeism (Conflict is a major contributor to stress-related absenteeism in the UK)
  • Retaining your very best people (After all, the people that choose to no longer tolerate conflict and leave are generally those that are the top performers and are confident of finding employment elsewhere, leaving you with the run-of-the-mill performers)
  • Cost savings (Recruitment costs, management time, support function time, the list goes on.)
  • Reduction in staff turnover (Addressing conflict directly avoids the need to re-structure teams or re-allocate people to different parts of the organisation.)
  • Significant improvement in employee engagement and commitment (Employees that feel supported and valued by their employer and are given chances to learn and grow will be more engaged – not rocket science really)

What are the advantages of mediation?

I think one of the biggest advantages of mediation is the opportunity it provides for a safe and direct conversation between parties in conflict. So many conflicts are generated and then escalate as a result of minor misunderstandings or untested assumptions. Mediation provides a forum to clarify and test understanding in a safe environment.

There are three things I think contribute to this sense of safety:

Competent Mediator - Having a competent mediator who’s practice is rooted in core values of mutual learning to facilitate the process helps parties feel safe.

Confidentiality – The covenant of confidentiality that protects the mediation process – ┬áthis provides security for parties to talk about what matters most.

Focus on Interests – The aim of the process is to help parties have a conversation that is focused on their interests and not their positions. This helps shift the mindset of the parties from ‘blame’ to ‘contribution’ and help them understand and appreciate each other’s needs and concerns.

What does a competent Mediator look like?

I’d like to say ‘Me’ at this point, but that might not give you enough relevant information so you can make an informed choice. So what would I look for in a Mediator?

Values-based Practice – I am a strong advocate of values-based mediation and I know this means different things to different people, what I mean therefore is someone that is clear in their mind about the values that inform the way they mediate and act consistent with these values, both in their conversations with you and the parties.

Our values unequivocally influence our behaviour, whether we are aware of it or not.  Therefore someone that personifies the core values of mediation and mutual learning, I think make effective mediators. For me, it is given that they understand and can manage the process, build rapport with parties, understand the psychology of conflict and aware of their limitations and fallibilities!

The core values of mediation include:

  • Self Determination
  • Free and Informed Consent
  • Win-Win
  • Ominpartiality

If you want to read more about any of this you can download a paper I wrote and presented at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Mediation Symposium by clicking the PDF image below It’s an academic paper but I think it gets to the heart of what makes an effective mediator. I’d also be delighted to receive your comments, so please post them below. Thanks in advance.

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