Mediation Top Ten Tips Guide

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Workplace Mediation Top 10 Tips for HR Professionals



    Top 10 Tips for HR Professionals

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    Poorly managed conflict costs British employers 24 billion every year [sources: OPP and CIPD]. Our own research indicates that over a quarter of HR professionals are spending as much as 1 day a week (more than 45 working days per year) on workplace conflict, equivalent to 8,644 to 10,000 each per year.

    Government is actively encouraging us to use mediation, thereby avoiding costly and stressful grievances and Employment Tribunals.

    Now, more than ever, UK businesses of all sectors are starting to put mediation at the centre of their conflict management procedures and acknowledging the enormous value it can bring to their people and the organisation. Good mediation, coupled with the appropriate support measures and an accurate assessment of the conflict scenario, can transform individuals, teams and even cultures within a very short period of time, and ensure the cost savings of resolving the issue are achieved before the next, increasingly costly, formal stages.


    However, there is an appropriate way of using mediation in the workplace and a risk of wasting the opportunity, or even making the situation worse if it is not used properly.

    For 13 years, weve helped to resolve employee relationship breakdowns through professional mediation. By sharing with you some of what we have learned along the way, we hope that you will be equipped with the key considerations to bear in mind before introducing mediation into your organisation.

    We hope that you find this Guide enhances your knowledge of mediation best practice and that your colleagues may also find it useful.

    Look out for...Take Away Tips

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  • Workplace conflict can arise for many reasons, including: perceived discrimination, jealousy over a promotion, underperformance, incompatible working styles or personalities, opposing targets, or returning to work intervention. Whatever the issue, mediation (also known as Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)) can provide a quick, pain-free and cost-effective way of resolving matters.

    Mediation is an informal dispute resolution process, facilitated by an impartial and trained mediator, aimed at bringing two or more parties together to clear up misunderstandings, explore concerns, and reach an amicable resolution.

    What is Mediation?

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  • When Should You Use Mediation?

    Mediation can be used at many different stages of the conflict process:

    Informal Formal Post Formal

    During the early stages of a dispute, mediation can be used as a highly effective intervention to resolve conflict. At this stage the mediation is entirely voluntary and confidential involving an independent, impartial person (mediator) helping two or more participants or groups reach a positive solution acceptable to both/all. Focus here is on restoring relationships and moving forward.

    Mediation can also be considered at the formal stage, providing all parties are willing to put that formal process on hold (mediation here follows the same principles as the Informal stage).

    Far too often following a grievance or disciplinary case the parties involved are in need of mediation support to help them integrate back into the workplace (this is a very effective support process which can include a more formal approach to the sharing of agreements reached by participants).

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  • When conflict boils over in the workplace, it is tempting to quickly bring the parties together and point them towards a resolution. You can see how they need to work it out, It is just a matter of telling them, right?.

    No, not really. A more sensitive approach, based on our current knowledge of interpersonal relationships, usually gets better results which are more relevant to the individuals, and longer lasting.

    First Steps Whats Your Mindset?

    Time and again, we come across well-meaning, but perhaps ill-advised, colleagues confusing informal HR meetings with mediation in its most valuable and effective form.

    Perhaps it is time for HR professionals and line managers to gain a better understanding of what mediation is, what it can do, when it should be used, and whom is best placed to mediate competently and without bias.

    After all, the way mediation is introduced into your organisation will shape the way it is embraced and embedded in your culture.

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  • Once the relevant line or HR manager has learned of a conflict situation at work, they will probably want to sit down with each party to gain a fuller picture of the situation. There is much to be gained from these conversations, and one possible outcome may be to propose a mediation.

    Problems occur when the meeting turns into the beginnings of a mediation of sorts, before the parties have been duly prepared and have an understanding of what is involved. There is also a risk that, in this context, there is a lack of complete impartiality and that professional mediation practice models are not being followed. This poses a significant risk to the credibility of the process and the way the parties are being supported.

    Early, informal one-to-ones with line managers or HR are essential for understanding the scope of the issues, but should not take the place of the mediation itself.

    Gain an overview of


    Understand what the

    parties are looking to


    Establish the history of the

    issue/s to date and the people


    Assess any risks to others, or to the business, and their seriousness.

    Pick up on any issues which might mitigate against mediation, such as mental health issues or major liability for the organisation.

    Core Objectives of a Needs Assessment

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  • When employees are at loggerheads, mindsets can become fixated on being right above anything else, or having their day in court. Bristling with indignation and defensive, the parties are often far from seeking out a way to address the real issues at the heart of the conflict.

    It follows that when mediation is introduced without proper preparation, sometimes with a formal investigation in the background, it is not surprising if there is uncertainty and resistance.

    A new process such as mediation particularly if it is not set out within your policies can arouse suspicion when offered.

    The parties may assume the organisation is trying to brush the issue under the carpet, or re-route it away from formal

    proceedings, and some issues may be partially addressed by the initial one-to-one meetings.

    Whats in it for them? they may ask.

    It takes careful positioning to help each individual buy into the spirit of mediation, to consider what they might personally gain from it and to agree to take part with an open mind.

    Those involved need to know that the mediation process is completely voluntary, confidential, neutral and without prejudice.

    All parties need to know that they are welcome to leave after the initial one-to-one meeting with the mediator, if they wish, so any feelings of pressure and

    expectation are minimised. It is important to let them know who is available to conduct the mediation, that they have been trained in mediation and selected to ensure that they have no vested interest in the outcome of this particular situation.

    Being clear, informative and reassuring can prompt even the most reticent party to give mediation a try, although sometimes no amount of persuasion will deter an individual from wanting a more formal approach.

    Once any formal claims have been investigated and procedures exhausted, the parties (in a different mental space perhaps) may need to be able to work together again and mediation can then be used to great effect.

    We always contact parties the day before our professional mediations to introduce the mediator and clear up any queries about the process. For the sake of a few minutes, it maximises the likelihood of everyone attending on the day. And that is one your main hurdles overcome.

    The timing and framing of a safe mediation are pivotal to gaining the participants agreement.

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    succeed in getting the parties to mediate and half the battle is won.


  • Typically, a mediation begins with individual meetings with the mediator for each party to voice their concerns, before a shared, facilitated, discussion to map a resolution.