With mediation increasingly recognised as an effective means of dispute resolution in the workplace, this joint publication by the CIPD and Acas aims to help employers, trade unions and employees in deciding whether and in what circumstances mediation may be suitable. The publication draws on examples of good practice and offers some practical advice for employers seeking to utilise mediation in their organisations.
Read more here.
Research shows over and over again organizational conflict benefits from the mediative process. Much is gained from employees talking about their problems before going to file a grievance at law. So often the procedures within an organization do not provide a neutral environment where work related conflict can be heard. Or, the formality of the procedures are daunting and cause more stress and anxiety for the employee causing him/her to seek outside counsel which tends to escalates the conflict.
The approach to mediation by an organization is key. One is to develop an in-house mediation scheme with trained internal staff. Another possible approach is to call on the services of outside mediators where a contract is agreed with a provider to provide services when necessary. Perhaps for a large organization the cost of developing an in-house scheme is worth it compared to a smaller firm that may see subcontracting out the work as more cost effective. But overall, we believe any organization would be smart in utilizing outside mediators for the following reasons:
a. the process would more likely remain confidential
b. neutrality – everyone will benefit from believing the mediator is not biased and has no stake in the outcome.
c. the amount of experience an outsider mediator brings to the table is extensive compared to the training an HR person has received. It is similar to asking a paralegal a complex legal questions. People mediate as their full time job and spend years honing their craft. Mediators have a diverse toolbox and know how to handle tough situations. That education and experience is invaluable.
d. gives all parties a sense of ownership over the outcome of mediation which enhances the sense of autonomy trust and responsibility. When parties involved see a skilled, neutral professional involved, they will “hear” information differently and handle the process differently than if they believe the process is a mere formality, biased or basically a conflict in its own right.
e. eliminates conflict with the role of the HR person, manager or other staff member who may simultaneously have the duty of later handling any grievance or disciplinary hearing that comes up.
Choosing the right provider is always important. Of course, there are things any list would tell an employer to look for such as track record, model of mediation used, certain professional qualifications or knowledge, expertise in employment related disputes. In reality, workplace mediators need two very important qualities: the ability to gain trust and the ability to establish good rapport with all the parties present. The reason for these skills is because most workplace conflict involves highly emotional issues such as:
bullying and harassment
Disciplinary and grievance situations – often a good idea is to run a mediation process alongside the disciplinary and grievance procedure allowing formal procedures to be suspended at any stage to seek an alternative agreed method of resolution. Remember there is often an underlying relationship issue going on that may benefit from mediation.
We recommend reading the 2013 report by ACAS and CIPD called Mediation: An Approach To Resolving Workplace Issues – the link is found right in the first paragraph of the article cited at the beginning of this post.