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Workplace Mediation

Workplace Mediation

Workplace mediation is best utilized in the workplace when it is supported by upper management which typically includes incorporating within an policy and procedures as an informal resolution process.  Thereafter, educational opportunities are provided for employees to learn more about workplace mediation through the form of workshops facilitated by human resources with or without the actual mediator.   Topics such as (1) how to access mediation, (2) how mediation works, (3) what circumstances warrant mediation are covered.  A main goal of the workshops is essentially a time to get buy-in from employees.  Both incorporation of mediation into policy in tandem with workshops work to ensure that mediation is a viable option for handling workplace disputes before they become formal grievances.  Mediation works best when both parties agree to participate voluntarily.  The content of the mediation is confidential but the mutually agreed upon solution(s) are not which are typically shared with human resources and managers.  

Steps in deciding if workplace mediation is right for your organization

(1) Deciding as an organization on how useful mediation would be and how often it will be utilized is important.  One way to determine how useful mediation can be in your organization is to look at the number of formal complaints submitted within the last 3 years.  This is typically a good indicator of how useful mediation can be to your organization.  If there has been an increase in complaints, high turnover, or conflict that seems to never fully reach a resolution, workplace mediation may work wonders for your organization.   Based on your need for mediation, management may simply want to use on an as needed bases which may not require incorporating meditation into your policies or procedures but referring employees to mediation as conflicts arise in order to be proactive about encouraging conflict management skills.  

(2) Learn more about the effects workplace can have on the culture of your organization.  Mediation typically does not work well in top-down organizations because the mediator is often not seen as a neutral third party but as a ploy of upper management to impose their resolution.  Mediation is about the parties establishing creative and mutually agreed upon resolutions that will improve their working relationship.  Organizations that tend to shared power and control work best with workplace mediation because it allows employees to feel empowered and take responsibility for themselves, the conflict they have found themselves in and creating flexible and creative working solutions.  

(3) It is a good idea for upper management to meet and discuss the utility of mediation within the organization.  Mediation Of Workplace Tiffs Is The Way of The Future is a useful article that can be used to facilitate a discussion.  Once a clear agreement can be made to pursue the incorporation or workplace mediation, scheduling time to meet with the mediator to decide on the best way to incorporate it into policies as well as how to inform and educate staff would be in order.  This would also be an opportune time to discuss when mediation would not be appropriate such as when the situation clearly causes for disciplinary action.

(4) After mediation has been incorporated and staff has been educated, mediation can now be an option for employees when conflict arises.  Employees can now have a safe place to work through interpersonal issues and improve their conflict management skills.  When upper management supports mediation by incorporating, educating and advocating mediation, medaition thrives as well as conflict management skills throughout the organization. 

Q & A

Q: Who is responsible for getting mediation into the organization? 

A: The organization is responsible for the fees. Payment arrangements are negotiated between the organization and the mediator.

Q; What happens when one or both parties decline mediation?

A: When one or both parties decline mediation, mediation does not occur. Parties may continue to feud and use mediation as a last resort.

Q: What happens when an agreement is not attained?

A: When an agreement can not be reached, other established company policies and procedures are then followed.

Q: When is mediation not appropriate?

In general, mediation becomes less of an option when formal complaints are filed since the process works best when used informally. An example would include when there are multiple complaints (such as bullying and harassment) against one person.  Situations such as these may warrant executive coaching.  Other instances of when mediation would not be appropriate would include when company policy has been clearly violated and disciplinary action are more appropriate.   

Team Mediations

Team Mediation

Team mediation is utilized when are multiple interpersonal issues are present in a team (two or more people) possibly in a particular department or individuals assigned to work together on a project.  Examples of when team mediation is warranted include when there are multiple grievances with counter-complaints, overt conflicts in the form of arguments or avoidance, high turnover or in general when the cultural climate is unsettling, noncohesive and interferes with productivity and customer service.

How does team mediation work?

(1) I am glad you asked. First things first, identify an internal or external mediator that you would like to conduct the mediation. After identifying your mediator, set up a meeting to discuss your situation and the appropriateness of a team mediation. This is also an opportune time to discuss any and all other relevant barriers, issues or anticipated complications.

(2) Once a clear agreement can be made to proceed with mediation, the members of the team can now be informed via email or a staff meeting.  In order for mediation to occur, all team members must agree to participate.  Upon achieving a collective agreement, each team member is given information about the mediation process are met with individually.

(3) Part of the of a team mediation is the team mediation day. Team mediation day is when all team members come together to discuss workplace issues and work to establish best practices on how to move forward. Typically, a location outside of the workplace is chosen for this day.

Q & A

How long is this process?

This process takes about 3 days with the first two days consisting of individual interviews with each member of the team and the 3rd being the team mediation day.

What happens when most people agree to participate but a few do not?

Unfortunately, the team cannot take place. The team is meant for the team not part of the team. The exception to this rule is when there are one or two team members that are absent for legitimate reasons such as a sabbatical or maternity/paternity leave of absence.

What about team members being afraid to speak up for fear of jeopardizing their employment?

Participants in the team mediation have the right to say as little as they want. It is encouraged that participants share what they feel is important to them as well as their ideas on how to move forward. Furthermore, before any mediation takes place, it is agreed that the content of the mediation is confidential and that no information shared or expressed within the mediation can be used against anyone outside of the mediation.     

Conflict Coaching

Conflict coaching is commonly utilized when an individual/employee find him or herself in conflict with a co-worker, subordinate, supervisor or other superior and is looking to work toward positive and effective ways to engage in that conflict. The goal of conflict coaching is to feel empowered and hopeful about improving the working relationship by establishing steps that foster collaboration, compromise, and empathy.   Conflict coaching helps the participant to increase their self-awareness, awareness of the person they are in conflict with and the context in which the conflict exist.

Steps to conflict coaching

(1) Conflict coaching can be either initiated by an employee who wants coaching to better a difficult relationship or an employee can be referred to conflict coaching once conflict coaching has been incorporated into the organization.   Establishing conflict coaching in the workplace can occur informally or formally.  Formally means incorporating conflict coaching into personnel policy and educating staff through workshops and meetings. Informally means simply suggesting conflict coaching to employees as conflict arises and providing the conflict coaches information.  

(2) Conflict coaching works well when it is utilized prior to formal proceedings such as a write-up or other formal disciplinary actions.  Conflict coaching supports the development of interpersonal skills as opposed to mere behavioral changes that formal disciplinary actions may impose without any real resolution or intrapersonal growth.  Encouraging employees to participate in conflict coaching as a means to support their interpersonal and intrapersonal growth as well as being clear about its voluntariness is important.

(3) The content of the coaching process is confidential. The outcome of the established action plan is shared with human resources and supervisors.

Q & A

What happens when the established action plan does not work out as well as anticipated?

It may be that conflict coaching may not have been the most advantageous from the beginning. There may also be larger workplace issues that need to be addressed in conjunction with conflict coaching. It may also be useful to discuss the utility of executive coaching.

How long is the conflict coaching process?

Conflict coaching typically lasts for about 6 - 8 sessions.  

Executive Coaching

Executive Coaches can best be seen as someone who develops a close personal and professional relationship with an employee in order to either improve or correct performance in the workplace.  The Executive Coach works collaboratively with the employee a well as the organization in order to produce the most optimal results.  Meetings are held across the organization in order to gain a full perspective of the work environment culture and climate in order to best assist the employee's receiving coaching.  Therefore both the employee as well as the organization is essential the Executive Coach's client.    


Steps to Executive Coaching

(1) Consult with an executive coach about the situation in which you feel executive coaching would be beneficial. If executive coaching would be appropriate for the situation, the executive coach then meets with the client individually.  Thereafter, contracting begins which outline the details of the coaching process which includes identified goals, terms of confidentiality, which forms of feedback will be used (quantitative, qualitative methodology or both), the anticipated outcome, other relevant assignments and the Coaches fees.

(2) Once the coaching process begins, the coach and client work closely with the client and his/her immediate supervisor.  Three-way meetings are held to ensure clear communication as well as to assess and support client progress.

(3) Quantitative (interviews with co-workers, subordinates and/or superiors) and/or quantitative (questionnaires answered by co-workers, subordinates and/or superiors) methods are used for feedback purposes in order to construct a development plan. Thereafter, progress is monitored.       

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