What Is E-Mediation?
The internet has become an indispensable business resource as more companies rely on online tools. As more businesses shift towards digital environments, it may be time for mediators to do the same. Online mediation, or e-mediation, could help you meet clients' changing needs in an increasingly digital workplace.
E-mediation isn't a new concept, but recent events do put new emphasis on it. Thanks to COVID-19, many companies have shifted to a work-from-home approach, moving much of their work online. As you're undoubtedly aware, just because people aren't in the same physical space doesn't mean workplace conflict is gone.
Under the stresses of 2020, mediation is arguably more crucial than ever. Traditional approaches to conflict resolution may not always be available or effective right now, though. In light of this situation, you may want to consider online mediation.
What Online Meditation Looks Like
Before diving into the pros and cons of e-mediation, let's establish what it means. When you hear "online mediation," you may picture conflicting parties meeting over a videoconferencing service. While this example is a type of e-mediation, it's not the only form of it.
You could also meet through email or other messaging platforms, but that's not the end of online mediation either. While most texts about e-mediation have focused on wholly-online conflict resolution, that establishes unnecessary restrictions. E-mediation also includes approaches that use online tools for parts of the process, but not the whole.
For example, you could videoconference with each party individually before bringing everyone together in person. Alternatively, you could use online documents to speed up the paperwork process before getting started with meetings. You have access to near-countless online tools, so e-mediation can take near-countless forms.
The Advantages of Online Conflict Resolution
Online conflict resolution can provide a solution to some of the limitations of traditional approaches. Firstly, e-mediation allows you to meet when meeting in-person isn't an option because of distance or a pandemic. With videoconferencing tools, you don't have to sacrifice nonverbal cues for convenience, either.
E-mediation can reduce knee-jerk reactions from clients since they're in a more comfortable environment. When you're not in an office under the harsh glow of fluorescent lights, you may not be as tense. As a result, it may be easier to work through discussions that would otherwise incite high emotions.
If you use a messaging service instead of videoconferencing, you can experience other benefits. When clients have more time to think about their responses, they can communicate more clearly. The extra time between replies may also help any tension fade away, enabling more productive conversations.
If nothing else, e-mediation tools can streamline the conflict resolution process. You can use document-sharing services to make filing any paperwork faster and more straightforward. When clients don't have to commute to and from an office, you also eliminate travel time.
Challenges With Online Mediation
Of course, e-mediation has its fair share of downsides, too. Social media shows how easy it is to say something inflammatory when you're not face-to-face. It's often easier to be more empathetic and less abrasive when you're meeting in person.
The convenience of e-mediation can also be a potential downside in some situations. If a client gets frustrated, they could quit the process altogether with just the click of a button. It may be more challenging to keep both parties actively engaged when they're not in the same room.
As with any tech-reliant operation, online mediation is prone to technological failures. Any disruptions in any party's internet connection can stop or slow the process. Time consumption aside, these disruptions could frustrate your clients, which can be counter-effective to your mediation.
Using E-Mediation Successfully
It's never been more critical for any industry, even mediation, to embrace technology. Businesses that are slow to adopt tech may be unable to survive the pandemic, so the time to move online is now. In that light, keep these considerations for e-mediation in mind.
Remember that you don't have to use every tool that's available to you. Depending on the situation, it may be best to meet in person, or you may want to videoconference instead. You shouldn't use online services because you can, but because they can improve your mediation process.
Remember that subtext is often harder to understand when you're not meeting in person. You may have to make more of an effort to communicate that you have everyone's best interests at heart. Even outside of your trustworthiness, you may want to pay more attention to ensuring everyone communicates clearly.
Like any mediation attempt, you'll have to approach each case on an individual basis. Every instance of conflict will have different needs, so your tools and techniques may vary. To serve everyone as best you can, keep your mind open about what online mediation looks like for you.
Conflict Resolution in the Digital Age
Technology can often be a double-edged sword. It can be a point of stress and high emotions for people, but it can also help relieve tension. As a mediator, you shouldn't shy away from technology, but use it with care.
Online mediation isn't the answer to every problem you'll encounter. It can help conflict resolution become more versatile, effective and convenient, though. E-mediation helps you address workplace issues in an increasingly digital world.
"A dispute is a problem to be solved together, not a combat to be won." I start with the assumption that the adversarial system of law as we know it...By Tom Arnold