Mediation is a resource you can bring to your business. It can prevent situations becoming entrenched. Like a surgical strike, it can immediately resolve conflict and disputes and get people collaborating again. It can brush away obstacles and replace them with a joint vision for the future. Employees buy in to a feeling that they are valued and that they have a real and tangible contribution to make to the business.
So, how do you approach this?
The best way to mediate is by not talking about mediation. Talk about finding solutions, ways of working together, finding common ground. Talk about meetings with people who are skilled at finding solutions. Talk about valuing the individual and recognising their perspective.
Schedule as many meetings as you can on a single day. Generally, the first meeting should be with the person with the strongest feelings, although you would not let them know that this was why they were going first. Allow a good two hours so that the mediator can establish a rapport, build confidence, and really understand the issues. Then build in some ‘free time’ so that the individual can come to terms with what has been discussed. Follow this pattern with subsequent meetings.
What’s the Skill?
The skill is in really listening to and understanding what is being said. Very often, the ‘apparent’ issue is hiding something else and the skill is in being able to find out what is really going on in the group dynamic. This takes time and patience.
Once the real issues haves been uncovered, you can begin the re-building process. This might take days, weeks or even months. In most cases, this solution is better than ‘cutting your losses’ and losing someone with a valuable contribution to make. The benefits are that, even in the relatively short term, it can lead to a more focused, driven and determined team, working together with a common objective.
In some cases, though, cutting your losses is the best solution. Deciding how and when to do this may not be easy but may be necessary in order to achieve your goals.
Starting the process tactfully, executing it with skill and retaining your overall objectives are key. The solution is almost never obvious from the outset. It will become apparent given a little time and a fair amount of hard work. Whatever outcome you end up with depends on the effort and resources you are prepared to invest.
Is Mediation for you?
Mediation is a relatively quick, reliable and painless way of resolving workplace issues before they become more dangerous and costly disputes. It by-passes the grievance procedure and can also avoid a disciplinary or capability procedure. Not all employers have bought in to this resource but, those who have, see it as a new way of resolving workplace issues as quickly and painlessly as possible.