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When is it best to use mediation in a workplace dispute?

Updated: Nov 3, 2020

The best time to use workplace mediation is when other internal “management” options have failed, but ideally before the issue has escalated into formal grievance or disciplinary procedures. However, the timing is often difficult: management will not want to give up their efforts too easily. As a result, mediation is often only introduced after a formal grievance has been raised.

In some organisations the staff manual will give clearer guidance as to the internal procedures which should be invoked, and these will include mediation. Where mediation is not mentioned, we recommend that any formal internal processes are suspended, so far as possible, whilst mediation is attempted.

In what situations would mediation be appropriate?

In general, workplace mediation can be used to resolve any conflict between work colleagues and this will typically include internal grievances, whether before or after these have been raised formally.

It can be particularly useful where other means of resolving the conflict have proved difficult for example:

· Conflict within the management team or between senior employees;

· Situations involving high emotion, differences in values, culture or personality;

· Where the parties wish to remain in work. Even more importantly, where the organisation wants both parties to remain in work.

Whatever the “history”, one of the primary objectives of the process is to help the parties to envision a future acceptable to both and move away from blame for the past.

Who will be involved?

Inevitably a workplace mediation will involve at least two individuals, but its flexibility is particularly good where more than two parties are involved. Whatever the number of people involved, they must all agree to participate in the process. If any party is reluctant the mediator can often ease their concerns in the preliminary meeting.

Are there situation in which workplace mediation may not be appropriate?

Yes. There may be some situations where mediation will not be appropriate, because there are wider implications, for example, where the issues involve Health and Safety, criminal behaviour or serious misconduct, or where one of the parties has severe mental health problems.

What can you do now?

As a helpful reminder that mediation should be considered mediation is triggered early, review your organisation’s HR policies and include reference to mediation at all stages.

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