Disputes and conflict will always arise in a workplace.  Mediation can help you focus on the solutions and resolve issues as they arise.  It’s about working together and finding common ground. 

It’s also about valuing the individual and recognising their perspective, even if you don’t agree.

Mediation is not part of any formal HR procedure – it is about having meaningful conversations with people. 

The skill to mediation is in listening to, and understanding, what is being said. 

Often, the issue is hiding something else, and the skill is in finding out what is really going on.  This takes time and patience.

A mediator is not a problem solver.  It is very tempting to be drawn down this track, particularly if you see an obvious answer in front of you.

The skill is to allow the individuals to work out their own solution for themselves.  If they decide how things should work going forward, it is much more likely that it will happen than if this is ‘imposed’ on them by someone else.

So, What’s Involved?

The starting point is to decide who the mediator will be.  This should not be a line manager, or anyone ‘invested’ in the outcome.  They are not playing the role judge or jury – just a facilitator. 

The people in conflict also need to be willing to try to resolve their issues.  If they are not, mediation is the wrong solution.

It takes some careful choreography to resolve disputes.  It is not a matter of dragging people into a room and (metaphorically) bashing their heads together.  It is about coaxing people to talk face to face about their concerns.

A mediator needs to establish a rapport, build confidence and really understand the feelings of those involved in the conflict.  A logical conclusion is not the same as a conclusion that ‘feels right’. 

If you can really listen to people, show empathy, without expressing your personal opinions or thoughts, you are halfway there.  The mediator should be an almost invisible presence – listening, nudging people in the right direction – which is, let’s face it, why managers are not usually the right people for the job.

The Outcome

A skilful mediator will get people to a position where they can genuinely and honestly talk to each other about their issues – and LISTEN to what the other person has to say.

Out of that comes a huge understanding – if not acceptance – and a huge sigh of relief for everyone concerned.  This takes patience and skill.  The mediator needs to be able to pick up on areas of compromise or agreement and emphasise the cohesion rather than the conflict.

This is a great way of avoiding costly litigation and it is a tool that encourages people to overcome individual concerns at work with their colleagues in a more focused, driven and determined team, for the business.

If you would like some support with mediation or learning mediation skills, we can help.  We can conduct mediations and/or train your employees to become mediators themselves.  Mediation is not always the answer but, when it is, it is a mighty powerful answer to workplace conflicts.