Conflict in the workplace can be a damaging and destructive force, which can escalate very quickly. Unchecked it can lead to discrimination, bullying, sickness, or disciplinary action. In short, such conflicts could end up costing the jobs and welfare of both employees and employers.
Enlightened HR professionals are increasingly turning to the mediation process for help in resolving workplace conflict. It offers a cost-effective solution to interpersonal issues and in some companies access to mediation is even offered as part of their employee benefits program.
Reasons why companies don’t use mediation
There are still many employees and managers who approach mediation with caution, which is understandable. It’s hard to acknowledge a breakdown in a professional relationship and accepting part of the blame for a conflict can hurt one’s pride.
For employers, it is sometimes seen as a last resort, an option taken once all else has failed. In the meantime, as the conflict has grown, staff morale has plummeted and productivity has waned.
For employees, it can be daunting getting into a room with anyone you’re junior to and explaining your grievances.
But the process of conflict resolution can take up valuable time and can be very costly to a business, especially if the conflict does result in legal proceedings.
“Whilst it cannot be claimed that mediation is an easy process, the benefits of it will outweigh leaving matters unresolved. Many who have been through the process understand that it’s a process of de-escalation,” added Mary J. King, HR specialist at Last Minute Writing and Researchpapersuk.
The practice has been so well received that it has been advocated as best practice by Acas. and if an employer has been seen to unreasonably refuse mediation should the case end in litigation, it casts an unfavorable light on the company at a tribunal.
From the outset of a mediation meeting, the mediator will explain that everything within that meeting is confidential and non-binding. It’s a process that must have willing participants and no-one is compelled to be there, but in entering into mediation they have shown a willingness to resolve an issue.
The mediator will explain that there can be an opportunity for each party to explain things that they don’t necessarily want the other to hear. They will also explain that their job is to remain neutral and merely document what has been said.
Each party will be given an opportunity to elaborate on the issue at hand for as long as they want. Mediators operate a strict no-interruption policy so that the party speaking can work through any anger or frustration. In this way, each party will be able to get to the very bottom of the issue. According to Bruce Troyer, editor at Draftbeyond and Writinity: “Though it can be quite an emotional process, it can root out any issues which have informed the conflict.”
After a brief summary of what has been said, both parties can then, with the mediator’s help, draw up an agreement in the spirit of compromise in order to move forward without further escalation. This agreement can be non-binding but signifies each parties willingness to enter into a more productive relationship with the other.
What mediation can and cannot do
There are times when mediation cannot work. These instances are often to do with personality or cultural clashes, where relationships outside of work can also play a factor. It is also quite difficult between two individuals whose roles are very far apart on the hierarchical scale.
However, most would agree that mediation offers a clear objective voice which can be very reassuring to those undergoing conflict and given the right opportunity can return your workplace to a happy, productive environment.