Conflict in the workplace can make everyone’s life miserable, so it’s worth some effort to resolve the issues at the heart of the problem. An in-house mediation meeting may be the most time and cost-effective way to get everyone refocused on the job at hand and some tips and mediation techniques can go a long way.
Recently, Catherine Gillespie wrote for Workplace Conflict Resolution on how to conduct successful workplace mediations.
It’s a common error to rush the mediation meeting, which limits discussion and encourages quick or early agreements. You might be pleased that some outcomes have been achieved and an uncomfortable meeting didn’t go for too long, but the parties won’t be fully satisfied. The issues will again surface in the not too distant future.
Ms Gillespie recommends these mediation techniques that will lead to success:
1. Set expectations
Have the mediator start with a short introduction. Thank the parties for being prepared to mediate. Remind them of any time limits on the meeting, the expected behaviours within the meeting and any confidentiality restrictions placed on them.
2. Opening statements
Allow each person, one at a time, to give a brief opening statement, perhaps 1-2 minutes only. Each person can state what they are hoping to achieve. This is not an opportunity to express grievances, lay blame or go into detail about any specific incidents. The time for that will come.
3. Set the agenda
From the opening statements an agenda of items for discussion can be listed. Ensure that every area of concern for each party is listed. The agenda should be set in neutral language — that is, not judgemental or inferring blame to either party.
4. Work through the agenda
Calmly work through each issue on the agenda, discussing the concerns of each person around that agenda item. Try not to get caught up in parties disagreeing about interpretation of facts. At some stage the mediator may have to intervene to move the discussion to cover real areas of concern.
5. Break out privately
A private session can be helpful at this stage to provide a break in a process that can be physically and mentally tiring. Always make sure there are light refreshments available. Meet with each party one at a time (and their support person if they have one) to discuss how they are feeling and how things are going, any concerns they might have and any options they may be starting to formulate for resolution. The mediator should never put forward their own ideas for resolution but should coach each person to search for answers by themselves.
6. Rejoin and set agreements
Bringing the parties back together again, start to generate options for solutions (but only if all the items on the agenda have been discussed). Each of the parties can put forward their options for resolution. These options should be discussed, debated and tweaked until both parties can agree and are satisfied as to how each issue should be resolved. The mediator should record any agreements made between the parties.
7. Break out for review
A second set of private sessions allows the mediator to review with each party separately, the agreements from the previous step. Further coaching may be needed if some items are still in dispute.
8. Finalise and document agreement
When each agenda item has been discussed and agreement reached on how to move forward, bring the parties back together again to review, finalise and capture in writing an agreement that each party is happy to sign.
If the parties cannot agree on all agenda items, or if one or both parties appear obstinate, an external experienced workplace mediator may be required.
So at your next mediation meeting, apply some of these mediation techniques and you'll (almost) guarantee a win-win mediation for both parties.
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