Mediation and Business Consulting by Kathleen Kauth.
Most conflicts are dealt with successfully by the individuals involved without outside help. However, when a conflict rises to the level of needing someone else to get involved — that person must be as objective as possible. If either of the parties in the conflict feel the third party is not objective — it risks making the conflict even more complicated.
Let's look at a workplace issue:
Jennifer and Heather are working on developing an employee training program. Jennifer wants to have the program run virtually, and Heather wants to have employees receive hands-on training. Both have strong arguments for their positions and have been unable to come to an agreement. Neither one is budging from their position and are listening to each other less and less with each meeting. Out of frustration — Jennifer asks Janet to help them decide.
Janet is a peer of Jennifer and Heather, but is very close to Jennifer personally. Janet is also the primary trainer, and would have to do much more traveling if the training is done in person. Janet does not want to increase her travel, so she sides with Jennifer.
So what happens?
Heather feels completely shut out because her points are not being heard. She is angry that Janet got brought into it — it isn't her decision and Heather knew she would side with Jennifer. Heather is now preparing to escalate the discussion to their boss to make a decision.
Now — you have three people involved in a conflict, about to bring in a fourth! Because Janet was not objective in the conflict (she is friends with Jennifer, and the decision directly impacted her work) the issue isn't resolved and now there is not only a rift between Heather and Jennifer, but also between Heather and Janet.
Anatomy of conflict
Conflicts between parties involve:
It is very difficult to guide others through conflict resolution if you are worried about how the outcome will affect you. This is when a mediator should be brought in. The parties in a mediation should feel as if the mediator is completely neutral. Often, this means both parties are equally irritated at the mediator! A mediators primary job is to guide parties through the process of conflict resolution, no matter the outcome.