When Workplace Mediation Goes Belly-Up

Imagine this.

You’re a busy manager. You have two employees who despise each other.
They’re engaged in a long-standing cold war that’s destroying productivity and killing morale. It’s only a matter of time before an untenable situation becomes unfixable.
Time to unleash your secret weapon – the mediator.

You know mediation works. The enemies agree to take part, you engage a mediator and before you know it, the warring parties are standing in front of you, clearly pleased with
themselves. They’re even smiling at each other.  Wow!  How good is this?

Then they hand you the agreement.

You read it and your heart sinks. The agreement prevents them from doing some tasks and puts more responsibilities on other staff. You can see why they’re so chirpy, but it doesn’t work for you or the business as a whole. Gulp!

So what went wrong?
The short answer is you probably picked the wrong mediator.

In this case, they were more concerned with resolving specific issues between the warring parties and less concerned with (or totally unaware of) the broader ramifications for the business.

Which brings us to an important point; you, Ms CEO, Mr HR Manager, not the antagonists, are the client!

When you engage a workplace mediator, you naturally want what’s best for the disputants. But that can never be at the expense of what’s best for your organisation.

Mediation in the workplace is brilliant. 
An independent person, who is skilled in helping people uncover and communicate their underlying needs, facilitates the process.
After hearing directly from each other, participants resolve the issues themselves in an agreed process with clear ground rules. 
It’s quick, low cost, confidential and without prejudice.

There’s very clear research on the benefits of workplace mediation, particularly from the USA. And accredited Australian Mediators are highly skilled and tested, with significant annual CPD requirements.

There are good reasons why people hire mediators who specialise in particular areas – think how different family relationship issues are to a commercial dispute.

So for effective workplace mediations, get someone with real workplace experience that understands not just what the parties want, but what you need!

Jim Porteus

Jim is an accredited mediator specialising in workplace mediations.  Jim spent 25 years in senior HR manager and director positions in large organisations, and is vice president of the Australian Human Resources Institute NSW Council.

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