Mediation is a confidential process where an independent and neutral third party (the mediator) assists the disputing parties to negotiate and reach a decision about their conflict. Unlike arbitration or expert appraisal, it is not the role of the mediator to impose a decision upon the parties. The mediator’s role is to manage the process of the mediation. Through their facilitation and technical skills the mediator assists the parties to explore the issues in depth and reach the best possible joint decisions that the circumstances allow. Mediation is particularly useful in any matters involving parties in ongoing contact where less formal communication may be helpful. At Mediating Works we aim and encourage the parties to build good working relationships and demonstrate efficient and effective communication in a way that doesn’t inflame the conflict.
Mediation should be considered as early as possible after a dispute has arisen because it is likely to be quicker and more cost-effective than the more formal processes of arbitration or litigation. It is particularly appropriate where a dispute is deadlocked due to interpersonal conflict. Mediation can be an efficient and cost effective alternative to other forms of dispute resolution such as arbitration or court proceedings. The parties must agree to voluntarily participate in the mediation. Where privacy and confidentiality are important, mediation enables parties to preserve these rights without public disclosure. This often leads to more satisfactory outcomes for both parties.
Conflict is inevitable to some degree however when workplace conflict emerges and begins to impact significantly on working relationships and or work productivity, then mediation may be suitable. It is worth remembering that workplace conflict is often observed by others in the work group and unless addressed it can negatively impact on the culture of the group or the organisation. Conflict that is addressed early in a fair and neutral way through mediation can send a very positive message to organisational members. There are benefits in outsourcing the mediation to a neutral mediator who can bring some objectivity to the process and manage it more effectively.
The amount of time required will depend on the dispute and what is being negotiated. Mediation sessions are not more than two hours at a time and are punctuated by breaks. The total number of hours to complete the mediation will vary. In most two party mediations that address workplace disputes the mediation is concluded in 6-8 hours and is spread over 1–2 days.
It is important to understand that you will have an influence on the mediation outcome rather that it being imposed on you. Therefore it is recommended that you take some responsibility and ownership of the outcome. You don’t have to agree with the outcomes if you are not happy.
Some people choose to bring a support person to the sessions so that they can assist with supporting the person. A support person does not participate in the discussion during the sessions. It is important the support person doesn’t interfere with the mediation process and the mediator will clarify the role of the support person at the start of the first session.
If either or both of the parties require a legally binding outcome then they should seek legal advice. In most instances where an agreement needs to be legally binding the support person should be a solicitor. The mediator can provide a brief report which summarises the mediation outcomes however this is not a legally binding document.
Settlement rates vary. Depending on the agencies and types of matters involved settlement rates range from 75%–85%.
If the outcome is based on objective criteria it may be necessary to review the outcome using those criteria. A review may be necessary especially if there has been a resumption of the original issues that brought about the disagreement in the first place. The objective criteria should be applied to the review.
The mediator’s role is to facilitate the process of the mediation sessions. The mediator’s role is not to establish facts or to take sides and decide who is right or wrong. The mediator has nothing to gain from any particular outcome of the mediation. The mediator is required to be neutral and impartial and to facilitate the process. If you feel the mediator is failing in this role please feel free to mention it.
People attending mediation rarely come away 100% satisfied after compromise which is appropriate and indeed necessary. The ideal of mediation is not to “win” or prove the other party “wrong”, but rather to use the process to clarify a person’s decision making and maintain the relationship with the people involved. Mediation allows both parties to be heard by the other side and to listen to the other parties’ point of view. When people listen and are heard, an understanding often follows that allows a change in the dynamics so that they can move ahead to work through the difficult issues that brought them to mediation in the first place.