A Guide For Facility Directors Considering A Mediation Program

These are

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.

  • Be

    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.”

  • Be

    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.”

  • Consider

    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.

  • Solicit

    the views and experiences of other directors of VA facilities and other

    Federal agencies who are using mediation to resolve disputes.

  • Plan

    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.

  • Sponsor

    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.

  • Obtain

    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.

  • Give

    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

    reality.

  • Clarify

    that the Working Group will be looked to concerning getting potential users

    (complainants, managers and union officials) to understand and believe

    in the program.

  • Strongly

    urge your managers to try mediation. Consider adding a requirement that

    when mediation is requested, management must attend the first mediation

    session.

  • Target

    and expand the training of appropriate personnel who are responsible for

    offering, explaining, or potentially using mediation services.

  • Have

    the Working Group create a plan to advertise the mediation program to all

    personnel.

  • After

    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.”)

  • Once

    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.

  • Support

    training of facility employees on mediation and your mediation program.

Getting Buy-In

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):

  • Associate Director or another top management official with authority to

    represent the Director. *

  • Chief of Staff.

  • Members of the Partnership Council. *

  • Union Presidents. *

  • EEO Program Coordinator and/or EEO counselors. *

  • Office of Regional Counsel. *

  • Chief and Assistant Chiefs, Human Resources Management Service. *

  • Chief, Employee/Labor Relations Service.

  • Chief, Nursing Service. *

  • Representatives of Local Unions (officials and stewards).

  • Mid-level Management Representatives (a good idea for buy-in).

  • Employee Representatives and Patient Representatives.

For Ongoing Program Assessment:

Urge flexibility

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

the program.


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!

  • It cannot

    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.

  • The best way to get buy-in for the program is to allow all interested parties

    to have input in its design and implementation.

  • Individuals who have a role in the current dispute system usually need

    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.

  • Consider that each agency and organization has different resources available

    to them to create a program and different needs to meet.

  • Consider that there is no “right” or “cookie-cutter” way to design a program.

  • Some, but not many, spend a lot of money and design a “cadillac” program

    with expensive top notch private groups.

  • Some have an educational component to team with, help coordinate and fund

    programs.

  • Some have zealots who are truly possessed,

  • Some have Federal Executive Associations who have committed money for training

    and administer sharing programs,

  • Some have District Counsels who see the merits of mediation and play an

    active role in channeling resources.


  • Not much money is needed to obtain good training and create an excellent

    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.

  • What are the areas in which you want to use mediation or mediation to resolve

    disputes? Consider: labor-management bargaining issues, unfair labor practices,

    grievances, informal workplace disagreements, discrimination complaints,

    patient complaints.

  • Consider the degree of the problems, and the players who need to be involved

    before designing a program. Involve the important players in the program

    design.

  • How should a particular program be tailored to address the program areas

    and disputes which need to be resolved with the resources which are available?

  • How formal do you want the program to be?

  • Should the program policy and processes be verbal or committed to writing?

  • What is the cost benefit to using mediation or some other type of mediation

    to resolve the dispute?

  • What is the institutional benefit to using mediation or some other type

    of mediation to resolve the dispute?

  • In which areas do you think mediation or mediation should not be used?

  • Why would using an mediation technique in addition to (or in place of)

    statutorily mandated mechanisms assist the resolution?

  • Consider whether you want to have a program that is self contained, shares

    resources with other VA facilities in the area or shares resources with

    other Federal agencies in the area.

  • Consider who will be administering the program, and involve them from the

    outset of the design.

  • Mediation is a good starting point, and probably has the best applicability

    of all mediation techniques. Once you learn how to mediate, you can readily

    adapt to other many other techniques.

  • Training resources much more available for mediation than other forms of

    mediation.

  • Consider what other Federal agencies in the area are doing, what training

    and programs they have in place and whether, and at what price, your facility

    can tap into those resources.

  • Find out who in your facility is a mediator in the community or through

    some other program and get them involved.

  • Get the Directors (top management) and Unions on board at the outset.

  • When creating a design team be sure to get the right individuals, including

    ones with the ability to speak for their components, and make sure those

    individuals are willing to commit their time to the design process.

  • Make sure the design team understands that creating a mediation program

    is a number one priority.

  • Learn what type of programs and resources are available through the state.

  • Learn what non-profit organizations are available to help you get training.

  • Learn what is happening in the local Federal Executive Association.

  • Join other VA facilities to share resources and training.

  • Involve your District/Regional Counsel.

  • Help your employees, union officials and management understand what mediation

    is, through pamphlets, discussions.

  • The most successful programs usually have someone who is truly convinced

    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.”

                        author

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