Mediation is the process where a third party assists the disputants to examine all sides of the dispute, to express what they need to say, establish common ground and move towards a solution that is arrived at by the parties and acceptable to both. The process is dealt with more fully below. he mediator’s role is to collect information from both parties, set ground rules for the process, facilitate a joint discussion whilst enforcing the ground rules, encourage creative problem solving by the parties, and ensure the eventual solution is adhered to as they move forward. It is important to emphasize that the process is not about seeking to apportion blame but to find an acceptable solution.
The choice of mediator (or mediators if more than one is being used) is important. There are a number of qualities they should have.
- Seen by both parties as independent, impartial and trustworthy
- Seen by both parties as credible and competent
- Appointed from outside the direct team of both parties
- Specially trained and skilled
- A good facilitator and communicator
- Able to generate creative ideas
- Able to manage group discussions and people’s emotions
- Able to maintain a balance and not be judgmental
The Use Of A Mediator Should Be Considered When:
- The parties wish to have some control over the solution
- Communication between the parties is not working
- The parties do not have the skill to communicate well
- The parties are lacking in trust in one another
- They cannot find a solution themselves
- The parties fear a loss if they negotiate
- A delay in resolution may be damaging
- Relationships are important
- Both sides have a good case
- There is a need to express strong feelings
There may be circumstances under which mediation should be preceded or accompanied by additional training, counselling or disciplinary action.
Mediation Should Not Be Used When:
- One side or both is unwilling to consider a resolution
- One side wants the other to be punished
- A legal decision in court is required
It may be possible to explore these situations using mediation, but if the view persists, mediation should be stopped.
Individual Issues That Cannot Be Mediated:
Sometimes, during a mediation session, issues arise that cannot be dealt with there and then, for example:
- When the issue is about something that cannot be changed
- The issue is about someone not in the room
- Those present do not have the authority to make changes
Typical Work Situations Where Mediation Is Particularly Helpful Include:
- Disputes between colleagues that are preventing them working together
- Inter-departmental quarrels
- ‘Personality clashes’ or poor working relationships
- Communication breakdowns
- Deadlocks in planning
- Changes of working roles
- Conflicts over task allocation
- Conflicts over aims and objectives
- Where there is a long history of bad feeling
- Many other situations
Careful consideration should be given to selecting the venue for mediation. The room should be neutral, not belonging to either party, and interruptions should be prevented - either from other people or telephones (including mobile phones).
The furniture should be set out in a way that encourages communication between the parties and the mediator, but also enables communication between the parties. It is not helpful to have the parties on opposite sides of a table. Whether or not tables are used at all may depend on normal practice in the organization. Some people may feel uncomfortable with chairs set out without desks or some form of table.