Mediation Practice

Mediators seek to support those in conflict to meet and talk through their differences to find a mutual understanding and workable resolution. A successful mediation session enables parties to emerge with a new understanding of the conflict, to be able to make clear, lasting decisions for resolving it and thereby proceed to rebuild sound relationships.

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The Mediation Process

I first meet with the parties individually and listen to the issues and concerns they want to bring to mediation. I explain and answer any questions about the mediation process.

If those in conflict choose to proceed, I will arrange for them to meet together. I work with people to create a safe and confidential setting. I then help them communicate as they explore their differences and seek to develop ways to constructively and realistically manage their conflict. Through this process the parties may transform their relationship.

Finally, I will support the parties in coming to agreements on the way forward.

Mediator Neutrality?

There are many forms of mediation but they are often categorised as being more or less ‘directive’ and more or less embracing of both ‘issues’ and ‘emotions’. Directive mediators will control meetings and coax or lead parties towards agreements. They may also aim to deal with the issues of a dispute and ignore or skim over any emotional or relational aspects of a conflict. At the less directive end of this spectrum are mediators who seek to facilitate engagement by the parties in a minimally intrusive fashion, (although they may still view their work as that of a manager of a negotiation between those in conflict). Some facilitative mediators describe themselves as neutral third parties. Their role is to be impartial, non-judgemental and they do not proffer solutions. However, it may be argued that this assumption of neutrality tends to oversimplify the mediator’s role.

Explorative Mediation

I practice Explorative Mediation, an approach that recognises that the mediator’s presence will inevitably carry some influence but seeks to either minimise this influence or make it transparent (for example, if high levels of anger and emotion need to be defused to rescue a mediation meeting). If the mediator uses his/her influence to lead parties towards solutions there is risk that any agreements reached may not hold after the mediation is over. If the parties genuinely find their own resolutions, agreements made will be all the stronger. As a mediator (or facilitator) I seek to serve my clients without overtly or inadvertently imposing my own preferences upon them. Such inadvertent persuasion can occur if the mediator is unaware of how personal assessments may inform spoken interventions. Hence, it is important for a mediator to endeavour to listen to their own internal, emotional and political responses to what is said. By striving for an ideal of ‘dialogue’ and by becoming absorbed in listening with the fullest possible attention to the speakers, it is possible to reduce the mediator’s influence. Undue influence can also be contained by allowing the parties to manage their own meeting process, rather than reserving this task as a right of the mediator.

The explorative approach to mediation (in common with other facilitative approaches) allows scope for consideration of both the pertinent issues of a dispute and the relational aspects of a conflict, subject to the requirements of the parties.

Thus, as a follower of a conversation, rather than as a leader, I aim to support those in conflict to explore their differences and realise opportunities to understand each other from new perspectives.

A Note on Workplace Mediation

Workplace conflict can take many forms, from trivial irritation with colleagues to a long term crisis in relationships. When workplace conflict starts to get out of hand it becomes increasingly difficult for those involved to speak together to find a renewed relationship. Grievance or dismissal procedures may be triggered, or valued staff may choose to resign.

Exploring conflict creates scope for learning and change, whereas suppressing conflict prolongs disharmony and disrupts work.

Why use mediation in the workplace?

Resolving conflict by mediation can:

  • Improve working relationships
  • Reduce absenteeism
  • Help retain experienced and valued staff
  • Improve morale and productivity
  • Reduce the risk of employment tribunal claims
  • Bring about lasting change