5 things you need to know about workplace mediation

Workplace mediation is a process which is used by organisations to help resolve difficult interpersonal issues and conflicts at work.

The mediation will be conducted by a neutral and impartial mediator, whose role is to facilitate communication between the participants.  With the mediator’s help, they will negotiate a solution to their conflict, and an agreed way of working together in the future.

Workplace Mediation is:

  • Less formal than traditional disciplinary, grievance and tribunal proceedings
  • Flexible
  • Voluntary
  • Confidential
  • Cost effective
  • Empowering for the participants, who are encouraged (with the mediator’s help) to find solutions to their own disputes

What sort of situations can workplace mediation help with?

Mediation is used to resolve disagreements around workplace relationships.  These might include:

  • Problems arising from abrasive behaviour
  • Perceived poor or unfair treatment 
  • Communication problems
  • Personality clashes
  • Breakdowns of workplace relationships
  • Problems with dysfunctional team dynamics
  • Issues between managers and their direct reports
Business meeting at office
Workplace mediation can be used to used to resolve disagreements around workplace relationships

What happens before mediation?

The mediator will arrange a confidential call or meeting with the HR director or senior manager who is commissioning the mediation.  During that call, the mediator will ask about the background to the conflict and what has been tried so far to resolve it.

The mediator will then have confidential, pre-mediation calls with each of the participants.  They will also be asked about their perspective on the conflict, and the main issues they feel need to be resolved.   The participants will be encouraged to speak openly and honestly with the mediator, knowing that everything they say will be kept confidential.

The mediator also uses these pre-mediation calls to explain what will happen on the mediation day, and to answer any questions the participants may have.

These calls also enable the mediator to come to the mediation fully prepared, and to ensure quick progress is made towards resolving the issues on mediation day.

What happens on the mediation day?

The mediation may take place face-to-face or remotely via video conferencing.

On the mediation day, the mediator will meet with the participants individually prior to mediation commencing. This is to check they are ready to start and to answer any questions they may have.

There will then be a joint meeting which the mediator will facilitate. The mediator will start by introducing themselves and the mediation process.  The mediator will remind everyone that everything that is said at mediation is confidential.

The mediator will then invite each participant to speak honestly and respectfully about how they feel and express their willingness to resolve matters if possible.

After this, the mediator may continue with everyone in the joint meeting or may invite participants to move to separate confidential meeting rooms. The aim here is to learn more about the issues that need to be resolved, and about what each participant needs to take away from the mediation. 

Later, the mediator will encourage the participants to discuss possible solutions to the situation, and to start working on an agreed resolution.  These solutions are likely to be future focused, including how they might communicate and work together productively in the future.

What happens when an agreement is reached in a workplace mediation?

Once the participants have agreed on a resolution, the mediator will ask for this agreement to be recorded in writing and signed.  The agreement isn’t legally binding.  However, by writing down and signing it, the participants are demonstrating their willingness to put the agreed resolution into effect.

The agreement (like everything said at the mediation) is confidential to the participants.  It won’t be shown to HR, line managers or anyone else at the organisation unless both participants agree to this.

Around 2-3 months after the mediation, the mediator usually holds a short follow-up meeting with the participants to check that things are progressing well and that the agreed solutions are working as expected.

Should we use an internal or external mediator?

Many organisations have in-house mediation schemes, with their own trained internal mediators.  For some conflicts, however, it may be better to use an external mediator, like Gooding & Crow. 

You may want to think about using an external mediator where:

  • An internal mediation procedure has been unable to resolve the dispute
  • The participants are unwilling to mediate with an internal mediator
  • The matter is particularly sensitive or confidential
  • The matter is particularly complex or high conflict
  • The matter involves more senior members of staff
  • The dispute has escalated and formal proceedings have been threatened 
  • The internal mediator is (or is perceived to be) conflicted
  • You don’t yet have trained internal mediators, or the internal mediators aren’t sufficiently experienced for the situation which is being mediated

Mediation is a highly effective way of resolving workplace disputes and restoring productive working relationships.  Around 95% of the workplace disputes we mediate at Gooding & Crow result in an agreed resolution.  If you’d like to find out more, do get in touch.