About Mediation at Work
1. Why try mediation ?
Disagreements and misunderstandings often happen in the workplace: sometimes these develop into ‘conflict’ or ‘disputes’. Formal procedures such as Grievance and Dignity at Work exist to ensure that such disputes are handled equitably, but formal investigations, appeals and escalation up procedures can be protracted and traumatic for all involved.
Mediation is a way of sorting out disagreements or disputes by ‘stepping outside’ the formal procedures including at the earliest informal stages. And if mediation does not resolve the situation, you can step back into the procedure at exactly the same place as when you stepped out.
2. What is mediation ?
In mediation, an independent, neutral person works with you to help you reach an agreement or an understanding that will resolve the issues that are causing the dispute.
Participation is voluntary – you only take part if you want to. Anyone participating can withdraw at any time.
The content of your discussions with the mediator is confidential. It will not be passed to anyone else unless you agree (including the others involved in the dispute). Nothing said in the mediation can be used in any later organisation or legal procedure, by you or anyone else.
3. Who might be involved in the mediation ?
The mediator will discuss the situation with you: sometimes a conflict can best be resolved by an open and frank discussion of the issues by the people in dispute, in a safe environment managed by the mediator. Sometimes, to ensure a sustainable solution, others with a contribution to make may be invited to participate in the process, including partners or TU representatives, as support.
4. What happens in a mediation?
Once your case has been referred to a mediator, they will contact you (by whatever means you prefer) to ask you what has caused or underlies the dispute or disagreement. The information you give will be treated in confidence.
After the mediator has gained an understanding of the situation from those involved, they will decide the best way to carry out the mediation. Usually they will set up one or more mediation meetings. The mediator won’t take sides or judge who is ‘right’. Because mediation is about repairing the working relationship, the mediator will help you focus on the future and how this could be better, by asking questions and making suggestions for you to consider.
If you don’t feel able to meet with the other person face to face, the mediator will take this into consideration. You can have private meetings with the mediator at any time during the mediation process: both sides can talk to the mediator openly because the mediator will not pass on anything said without the agreement of the person who has said it.
During the mediation sessions, you may be able to reach agreement about the way forward. For example this may involve an explanation, an apology, agreeing performance targets or even having regular meetings. If so, the mediator can help you to write these up so that you have an agreed understanding. And if you wish this to remain confidential, it will. Alternatively, you are free to share it with other people if everyone agrees.
5. Why does mediation work ?
Formal procedures are generally ‘adversarial’, that is, someone has to make judgements about who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’. Instead, a mediator acknowledges that problems have occurred then encourages you to explore ways of building bridges for working together in the future.
Because the mediator is independent and neutral, and will not be involved in the situation at any later stage, you can have open and frank discussions with them. The mediator may also be able to offer a fresh perspective on the issues that have caused you such concern.
6. Are all disputes suitable for mediation ?
If you are genuinely willing to explore ways of resolving your dispute and rebuilding your working relationships, mediation can help. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! And since you can re-enter the formal procedures if you don’t reach a resolution in the mediation, you have nothing to lose and a great deal to gain – perhaps including peace of mind.