Following on from my earlier mediation blog, this time I looks at different types of mediation, their many benefits and possible outcomes.
Mediation sits between negotiation at one end and litigation at the other end of the ‘dispute resolution spectrum’. My previous blog explained that mediation came to my attention initially as a means of assisting people to reach voluntary resolutions to their disputes. I was attracted to a process that might involve a ‘win-win’ scenario, particularly where the parties might have unequal bargaining positions. Negotiation is great but only really works well where there is parity of power. By a ‘win-win’ outcome, I mean one where both parties feel the outcome is a positive one for them.
The Benefits of workplace mediation
Mediation offers a unique resolution to conflict, one meant to achieve the elusive ‘win-win’ outcome. It does however offer much more than this:
- It’s quick. When a conflict emerges (often it has rumbled on for a while), HR can offer a grievance procedure which can take weeks to investigate and arrange. And then there is the appeal. And then there is the resignation. It goes on. Mediation can be arranged relatively quickly as an alternative to the grievance procedure. Importantly successful, sustainable outcomes can often be achieved following merely one day of mediation.
- It’s low cost. Compared to the cost of management time in handling disputes and the costs of being involved litigation, mediation is very much the low-cost alternative.
- It works. A well-trained mediator brings high success rates for mediation.
- Its power comes from the process. Grievance procedures often produce entrenched positions. Mediation is very different, giving parties the time and space to express their needs and allowing them to appreciate the other person’s needs. It means parties can work together to solve problems jointly rather than individually and don’t have a solution ‘imposed’ on them.
- It is solution-driven. At its core, mediation is fully geared to parties finding workable solutions to their problems. The solutions will rarely be about money (as opposed to litigation), but practical steps that lead to a sustainable working relationship.
- It offers a range of outcomes. Not every mediation will end with the perfect result but there are so many benefits gained by just going through the mediation process. These include; being heard, listening to others, understanding someone else’s position and having an appreciation of differences. These alone can create stronger relationships following a mediation – even if there are no ‘agreed actions’.
As with any discipline, there are a few different models of mediation. These are:
FACILITATIVE MEDIATION – this works to help parties in a conflict make their own decisions, on the basis that such decisions will have the best fit and therefore be highly likely to succeed. The mediator offers a structured process which works really well with conflicts in the workplace, where a win-win solution is needed in order to support and strengthen relationships.
EVALUATIVE MEDIATION – Here the mediator provides the parties with an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of their case with respect to their legal positions. If asked, they may also advise as to a likely outcome at court. They may also offer direction towards settlement options. This approach is suited to business and contract disputes where there is no ongoing relationship and a compromise is sought as an alternative to expensive litigation.
TRANSFORMATIVE MEDIATION – A transformative mediator aims to empower the parties involved to make their own decisions and take their own actions. The parties are very much in charge of both the content and the process, the mediator working to support both as their conflict unfolds and their relationship changes and strengthens.
I take a facilitative /transformative approach to mediation for workplace disputes as I believe these offer a much more holistic approach to relationship re-building and conflict resolution. For cases where the relationship has already broken down, I suggest a more evaluative style of mediation. Here I can use the full benefits of my 25 years as an employment lawyer to help parties understand their positions.
My next blog looks at the true costs of workplace conflict (spoiler – they are shockingly high), the role mediation can take in reducing these costs and my tips for curtailing workplace conflict.