30 May 2012 #Employment
With around 30 years’ experience of dealing with workplace disputes, both as an HR practitioner and then as an employment lawyer, I have become more and more convinced that workplace mediation does provide a better way to resolve disputes in many cases.
I have seen suggestions that managing and resolving conflict better could solve the current economic recession. Whilst I do believe it has a real value and that it should be more widely used, even I would not quite go this far!
So what are the pros and cons and what are the differences between mediation and other dispute resolution processes?
The main difference between mediation and formal or legal processes is that mediation deals with the underlying emotional aspects of a dispute. In a disciplinary or grievance process the concern is more with the factual issues and coming to some sort of finding or decision. The result of this is that the positions of the parties become ever more entrenched and defensive. In my experience the procedures can often take on a life of their own with grievances being met by counter allegations. Also the outcome may not ultimately satisfy anyone.
As mediation is conducted by a neutral and independent person and is conducted on a confidential and without prejudice basis, it provides a safe environment in which the real issues can be uncovered and dealt with. This is far more likely to resolve the underlying issues and maintain a working relationship. These differences are illustrated by the following diagram.
The complete solution?
Although I firmly believe that mediation is a better solution in many situations it is not the right solution in every situation. It would not be appropriate where:-
Where the parties have not agreed to mediation. It is an entirely voluntary process and it is important that individuals willingly participate; indeed this is an important first step in itself.
So whilst mediation is not quite the Holy Grail it is preferable to the formal or legal processes that many of us are more used to in many situations. I can now look back and see many situations where I was involved in litigating disputes when mediation could have been a much better option and clearly should have been considered. Most importantly, had mediation been successful in these situations it would have involved significantly less financial cost to both parties but also less damage to the health and well-being of those involved.
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