Why Should I Use Mediation in the Workplace?

June 18, 2018

Disputes in the workplace have the potential to cause significant damage to a business.  A single major employment dispute can result in the erosion of substantial assets because of legal fees, potential jury awards, loss of productivity and negative by creating a negative impact on a business’ public image due to negative publicity and or social media coverage. Oftentimes for the employee stressors from work are carried over into their personal lives on both a financial and an emotional level. Employees may find themselves living in debt or experiencing a level of depression making it difficult to perform their daily tasks.  These stressors also impact the employees’ quality of life and/or the lives of family members. Businesses cannot afford to neglect the impact that these same stressors place on the businesses management and the impact it has for these managers and on the productivity and profitability of the business.  Mediation often produces solutions in a matter of only a few hours or days; saving both time, money and minimizes the emotional stressors associated with litigation. The mediation process is confidential keeping discussions and settlements outside of the public eye and oftentimes is a confidential settlement between management and the employee thus avoiding damage to the company’s and/or the employee’s image.

Mediation is an informal yet structured process in which a neutral third person helps Management and Employees openly discuss the issues that they are encountering at work from their own perspective, understand each other’s perspective, work through any communication, stereotyping, understanding issues and resolve conflicts. This open discussion often helps the parties recognize each other’s views and better consider how the dispute might be resolved, and more importantly how to avoid a similar situation occurring in the future. The parties, rather than the mediator, have the power to decide whether and how issues can be resolved.

Mediations may be conducted on or off site on a case by case basis or as part of a comprehensive Conflict Management program. When disputing parties are given the opportunity to participate in a mediation session, not only do they gain a better understanding of the conflict, but they also develop a better ability to communicate with each other. In the end, conflicts in general are reduced as communication is improved. This leads to a better workplace environment.

Workplace Mediation also offers an opportunity to

  • address conflict quickly and effectively (oftentimes in a couple of hours)
  • improve employee morale and teamwork
  • maximize performance, productivity and profits
  • retain valuable employees

Managers spend a large percentage of their workday resolving conflicts. Some of the conflicts they may encounter are simple misunderstandings over rules, policies and responsibilities. Conflicts are also created from personality clashes, value and goal differences, performance issues, differences over methods, lack of cooperation, authority issues, frustration and irritability, and competition for limited resources and opportunities.

Yet another form of frequent conflict stems from the use of language and individual interpretation. For example, “I need this done right away” could mean stop everything and do this immediately or it could mean complete this project by the end of the day. Without asking for clarification tensions increase and conflicts and misunderstanding may occur. As a result, conflict resolution is an essential skill for the efficient functioning of the work environment.

Many individuals view conflict as counter-productive, however, conflict may be positive and beneficial in that it can clarify goals, relieve tensions, open communications and resolve problems or explore potential problems. In its negative form, conflict can divert energy away from real tasks, decrease productivity, reduce morale, prevent cooperation, aggravate minor differences, polarize points of view, encourage irresponsible behavior (including sabotage of resources or equipment), generate suspicion and mistrust, obstruct communication, increase tension and stress, obscure goals, and result in loss of valuable human resources.

There are many benefits to utilizing the mediation process to resolve conflicts in the workplace. Mediation encourages each party to listen and understand the other’s position; it promotes real communication, minimizes personality conflicts, structures interactions to prevent interpersonal conflict, reduces stress, and encourages mutual compromise. It allows feelings to surface, validates concerns, promotes individual responsibility and encourages cooperation and friendship. Mediation is confidential and is future-oriented. It is less concerned with deciding who was right or wrong than with finding solutions to the problem(s) so that it does not occur again. The focus in mediation is on practical solutions, and on the emotional issues, which may need to be aired even when they cannot be resolved.