Workplace Mediation is a confidential, informal and voluntary process whereby an impartial mediator facilitates communication between those in dispute to assist them in developing mutually acceptable agreements to improve their future working relationship.
Mediation can be effective in both union and non-union settings and at all levels of the organization.
Mediation within the workplace generally looks very different from mediation within the context of litigation. The primary goal of workplace mediation is to leave the parties better able to work together. Traditional "settlement conferences," in which the mediator separates the parties and shuttles back and forth between them, often will not be adequate to this task; the parties will need to work through their differences together.
An agreed mediator will consult in advance with an organizational representative to clarify expectations with respect to confidentiality and reporting back, and to obtain information on the history of the conflict. Next, they will meet with each person individually to understand the issues from each person's point of view. During these individual meetings the mediator will also spend time on conflict coaching to assist the parties in adjusting communication styles and ways of approaching or analyzing conflict to help them hear and be heard by the other party. Then the mediator will bring the parties together for a face-to-face mediation session. The mediation meeting is structured in order to encourage constructive communication and clarification of the main issues, and help disputants to come up with mutually acceptable agreements as to the way forward.
Virtually any difference that arises in the workplace can benefit from mediation if the parties are willing to deal
directly with each other and if the company provides the resources for mediation.
Indeed, over time, a workplace in which mediation is the preferred or presumed dispute resolution mechanism is likely to become a workplace in which colleagues and coworkers need less assistance in working through differences and begin to become natural collaborators.
However, there are certain types of workplace conflicts in which any company would be well-advised to offer mediation.