When parties are white-anting each other outside the mediation room, things are in a downward, and probably for the moment fatal, spiral.
Confidentiality went long ago, now it's who can win the public relations contest.
Here the Writers Guild of America tells us how talks broke down in the writers strike mediation last Friday night in LA and here The Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers gives their version.
On the one hand Young for WGA says; 'As we prepared our counter-offer, at 6:05 p.m. Nick Counter came and said to us, in the mediator’s presence:“We are leaving. When you write us a letter saying you will take all these items off the table, we will reschedule negotiations with you"'
On the other AMPTP says; 'Young stormed off and slammed a door behind him'
Often a characteristic of labour disputes, this kind of gaming outside the room is an integral part of the muscle flexing ritual but it can be hard for a mediator to adequately protect the process - enough for it to survive for when the parties are done playing games.
But it is probably your most important role. Just keep it alive.
I recall a photograph of an outrageously provocative poster supporting one side of the debate was stuck on a telephone pole in another city and emailed into some one's handheld in one of my labour mediations a while back.
It could have been the death-nell of the process but for some cool heads prevailing - it added days to the negotiations while it was countered in a like and ritualistic fashion.
But we kept the mediation triaged with a weak pulse until the parties had completed their tit-for-tat and were able to pick it up again.