17 DecWhen Mediation Goes Wrong: What Should You Do?
Mediation is a highly effective method of resolving workplace conflict. It is widely reported to have a success rate of between 80% and 90% and is a far more welcoming prospect than a scenario where employees are forced to leave and/or decide to raise employment tribunal claims.
However, it is possible for some mediation situations to break down or to fail in their objectives. Some common reasons for that failure include:
- The use of a mediator who is inexperienced or untrained
- Lack of management support in the mediation process
- Unrealistic expectations set by the parties involved
- Lack of commitment from the parties involved
- Using the mediation process too late (that is, irreparable damage has already been done)
- Lack of commitment to confidentiality.
Mediation will also fail where it is used inappropriately. Circumstances such as sexual harassment, severe bullying and discrimination may have been caused by such an imbalance of power that the victim would not be able to participate properly and equally in a resolution. In these examples, formal disciplinary procedures or perhaps even referral to the police are more effective courses of action.
How can you ensure that these problems don’t occur? There are a number of solutions available to increase the likelihood of successful mediation taking place. These are:
- Recognise that all organisations face conflict on a regular basis and that a proactive strategy is the best way of managing disputes effectively. The strands of this strategy may include having the capacity and expertise within the management team to deal with conflict, employing an independent mediator where necessary and raising awareness among employees of the damage that workplace conflict can cause.
- Ensure that the organisation’s grievance policy contains a strong commitment to resolving problems on an informal basis. It should also explain what mediation is and in what circumstances it would be used.
- Train managers to identify which situations would benefit from mediation and which require more direct action. This training should be backed up by clear information to employees on which behaviours will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
- If mediation is being run in-house, provide a template to the mediator so that nothing is left out. This template should cover the importance of contributions from the affected employees, what mediation can and can’t do, the support that the mediator will provide and how the process will define success. This will ensure that each participant understands their role and why they cannot be passive if they want to resolve the problems they face.
- Be clear with everyone that mediation is a confidential, voluntary and supportive process that gives employees the space to be honest (in a constructive sense) and to define the problems as they see them. It’s essential that everyone who takes part understands that they may be privy to personal information and that they must not disclose anything about the mediation to anyone else.
So, this is what to do when mediation goes wrong to make things right.
Katherine Graham has 22 years’ experience in the field of workplace dispute resolution. She was made Managing Director of CMP Resolutions in 2009; prior to this she was CMP’s Director of Dispute Resolution. She has delivered more than 400 mediations, often working at the most senior level mediating complex disputes between directors, partners, and CEOs.