only suggestions based on our experiences, the culture and needs of your
facility (or group of facilities) must serve as your guidance in designing
and implementing a mediation program which meets your facility’s needs.
There is no “best”; mediation program for all va facilities and each and
every program that is in place at the va has its own unique features. The
important thing is that your staff, union and employees are satisfied with
the program as designed and in place.
as active, vocal, and positive in your support of mediation (and a mediation
program) as you are able to be. Your staff will look to you to set the
tone on whether the program is really supported, or whether it is just
some “new thing to try.”
especially clear about what you are asking your staff to do and when
you want it done otherwise the
design and implementation process can last forever. “I am tasking you to
work together to come up with a plan and
propose a mediation for implementation at this facility. I have specifically
asked you to be here and participate because I believe you
have an important leadership role
at this facility and have a lot to offerin creating a mediation program.
I intend to give your group recommendations
great weight in ultimately deciding what to do. I
will also ask the partnership council to help with this program.”
and discuss with employees what opportunities exist in the facility for
mediation usage, and at what stages in the dispute that mediation would
be most beneficial.
the views and experiences of other directors of VA facilities and other
Federal agencies who are using mediation to resolve disputes.
to commit the resources to promote the mediation program. If appropriate,
require identified services to commit resources. Initial resources will
include sponsoring a Working Group to design and implement a mediation
program and committing resources to get your Working Group and the mediators
that are selected the appropriate education and training to do the jobs
you are tasking.
the Working Group. The Group should be coordinated by a top official at
the facility. Some ideas include: Associate Director, Union President,
Chairs of Partnership Council. The individual(s) selected will play a facilitation
role so he/she should be well respected and able to build consensus.
the proper training for your Working Group to develop good mediation program
for the facility, including a specific plan of action (with enumerated
responsibilities and dates). Make sure key individuals attend realize the
importance of and attend the your sponsored training. Training is available
through your Office of Regional Counsel.
the Working Group strong support by kicking off the first session and voicing
your and Secretary Brown’s commitment to making the mediation program work
effectively. Solicit the Group’s ideas and assistance in making this a
that the Working Group will be looked to concerning getting potential users
(complainants, managers and union officials) to understand and believe
in the program.
urge your managers to try mediation. Consider adding a requirement that
when mediation is requested, management must attend the first mediation
and expand the training of appropriate personnel who are responsible for
offering, explaining, or potentially using mediation services.
the Working Group create a plan to advertise the mediation program to all
a plan of action is committed to, meet or contact the top managers at the
facility to talk up the program, answer concerns, request their comments,
criticisms and support of the new program. (“We need your use of the program
and want your comments on the Program’s strengths and weakness to assess
whether mediation will assist the VA in managing its disputes.”)
determined by the Working Group, indicate your support of the mediation
program to the Program Coordinator and urge him/her to come to you (or
appropriate designee) with needs, problems and ideas. Discuss an action
plan with the Program Coordinator setting a specific course of action and
time line to meet the key milestones.
training of facility employees on mediation and your mediation program.
The best way to get
buy-in for the program is to involve users in its design. So, make sure
you get good participation in the working group by the potential users,
but don’t let the group get too large or it won’t operate well.
Suggested Working Group Members ( * Denotes Critical Members):
represent the Director. *
For Ongoing Program Assessment:
and creativity in your mediation program so that glitches can be quickly
addressed, resolved and innovations implemented.
Sponsor meetings to review and recommend improvements to the program. In
addition to the Working Group members, include representation from: EEO
counselors, EEO mediators, union representatives, managers, and complainants
who have participated in
Meet with management of the facility to discuss, evaluate and coordinate
program implementation efforts.
What We Have Learned
The Hard Way
In no particular order!
be emphasized enough that for a new mediation program to be successful
it must have buy in by all interested parties: top and mid level management,
unions, users, lawyers, supervisors, human resource management EEO counselors,
etc. Those that do not believe in the benefits of a mediation program will
most likely attempt to undermine the program behind the scenes.
to have input in its design and implementation.
a role in the new program, otherwise they fear a loss of power or control
and feel threatened. Threatened entities may attempt to undermine the program
behind the scenes.
to them to create a program and different needs to meet.
with expensive top notch private groups.
and administer sharing programs,
active role in channeling resources.
program, what is important is an energized and empowered group, that knows
or is willing to learn the resources that are out there to tap.
disputes? Consider: labor-management bargaining issues, unfair labor practices,
grievances, informal workplace disagreements, discrimination complaints,
before designing a program. Involve the important players in the program
and disputes which need to be resolved with the resources which are available?
to resolve the dispute?
of mediation to resolve the dispute?
statutorily mandated mechanisms assist the resolution?
resources with other VA facilities in the area or shares resources with
other Federal agencies in the area.
outset of the design.
of all mediation techniques. Once you learn how to mediate, you can readily
adapt to other many other techniques.
and programs they have in place and whether, and at what price, your facility
can tap into those resources.
some other program and get them involved.
ones with the ability to speak for their components, and make sure those
individuals are willing to commit their time to the design process.
is a number one priority.
is, through pamphlets, discussions.
that mediation will really help the organization, and is personally committed
to see it happen, i.e., the zealot.
Common Problems In Mediation Implementation And Usage
1. Middle management hierarchical control problems.
2. Resistance to “compromise,” “we’re here to litigate.”
3. Power issues, loss of control.
4. Clients already have a settlement process, don’t see an advantage.
5. Job security, status quo. I have my job and I don’t want to see it change.
6. Resistance to mediation process because of perception it forces settlement.
7. Satisfaction with existing process, low priority given to mediation because
of limited resources, “its just one more thing to do.”
8. No direction from top management.
9. Lack of understanding about mediation, “knee-jerk responses.”
10. Fear of precedent or obtaining reputation of “caving-in.”
Red Sox fans like myself, while still basking in the afterglow of our team's recent World Series triumph, are grieving that baseball season has at last come to an end....By Diane J. Levin