Blake Morgan’s employment lawyers regularly encounter workplace disputes which have arisen because of poor (or even lack of) communication, on both sides, resulting in understandable misunderstandings and complaints. Using a formal grievance process may not be the best solution: It is inherently adversarial, and will result in a winner and loser. Invariably, ‘the loser’ still feels aggrieved, the conflict tends to escalate as a result, and the employer faces an increased risk of litigation. Even ‘the winner’ may not be happy! His grievance may have been upheld, but he still has to work with his colleague or boss. This is where workplace mediation could have provided a win-win outcome.
Workplace mediation is a perfect vehicle for encouraging an open and confidential dialogue at an early stage, to avoid the conflict escalating, and perhaps ending up in an Employment Tribunal. Bringing an external mediator into the meeting can improve greatly the chances of achieving a successful, sustainable, outcome by offering a fresh approach to resolve a problem. We can help calm tensions and facilitate transformed ways of working together after ‘issues’ have arisen. We can bring a dose of common sense from highly experienced specialists who are ‘neutral’.
There are no strict rules for when to use Workplace Mediation. However, the following situations tend to respond well to this approach:
Workplace Mediation can be used to deal with any interpersonal or behavioural ‘issues’ which are damaging good working relationships and sapping productivity, creativity or effectiveness on many levels:
Workplace Mediation can also be used to integrate an aggrieved employee back into the workplace after a formal grievance, performance or disciplinary process, to help re-build the working relationship.
Workplace Mediation will not be the answer to all workplace disputes, and a mediator’s initial role is to assess whether or not Workplace Mediation is suitable on a case by case basis. The Mediator will assess its ongoing effectiveness throughout the process. Most importantly, we will not accept instructions to act as a mediator if we are concerned that the parties have been coerced into attending the mediation.
Workplace Mediation simply makes business sense. Conflict in the workplace takes up valuable time and can have a very damaging effect on a business. It’s not surprising then that Workplace Mediation is becoming increasingly popular as a way of resolving grievances and potential disputes. Both parties benefit if the mediation is successful. Employers retain employees who are now likely to be more engaged, and avoid the need for expensive recruitment. Employees feel that they have been listened to and there is a practical plan to get the working relationship back on track.
An organisation’s people are usually their most valuable resource, and the key to its success. If there is conflict between individuals or a group of individuals within an organisation, this can lead to:
These are all issues which are bad for the bottom line.
Mediation has the following benefits, when used appropriately:
Workplace Mediation can help you unearth a systemic problem within an organisation, which could potentially lead to numerous individual disputes. The organisation can then deal with the underlying issue holistically, for example, by changing working practices, developing a team building programme or providing mentoring.
If Workplace Mediation is introduced as part of your people strategy, in consultation with any recognised unions and/or employee consultative forums, this will help you promote its use and effect a culture change. This will be particularly effective if a claims/compromise agreement culture currently exists within your organisation. You will be able to send a strong message to staff that potential problems are talked through openly at an early stage, and that it is in everyone’s interests to do so. It will show that you are investing in your staff.
Whilst immediate line managers have traditionally been given this early intervention role, particularly in relation inter-colleague dispute, experience has shown us that they are not always equipped for the task. As a result, minor disputes quickly escalate into disciplinary and/or grievance proceedings. Therefore, we believe that it is definitely worth you investigating further embedding the effective use of Workplace Mediation into your organisation.
Typically our mediators are instructed by employers, through their Human Resources team or senior management, where there is a desire to resolve interpersonal issues between employees or contractors whilst preserving and improving the working relationship.
Research from Samsung highlighted that seemingly minor workplace annoyances can cause severe distractions leading to loss of productivity and even loss of staff.
“Helen’s been bullying me for the past 2 years and and I want to raise a grievance”.
Successful mediation between a team member and the management at a veterinary practice.
Successful mediation between the new Head of Department and a long-serving Teacher within that department at the school.