Conflict resolution – the value of mediation and early intervention

Conflict resolution - the value of mediation and early intervention
Home | News | Conflict resolution – the value of mediation and early intervention

At the start of this new year, I have been reflecting on mediations that I ran towards the end of last year. One common theme from those taking part was that they wished they had been offered mediation sooner.

In some cases, the conflict between the colleagues had gone on for well over a year – which made those involved dread coming to work. In one case the person said that when they came into work they would first check the staff car park – if they didn’t see the other person’s car they would relax and have a good day at work. If they did, then it really affected their mood and they would become tense throughout the day, as if they were almost mentally preparing for an argument.

In nearly all cases, the conflict affected all aspects of work and personal lives, leading to problems sleeping and impacting their own relationships at home. Usually, all those involved had endured a thoroughly miserable time and some had had periods of sickness absence. From the employer’s perspective, this conflict meant they had a less effective team.

Root causes

These were nearly always the same whatever the factual matrix: a lack of effective communication – having that difficult and exposing conversation. This had led to individuals making a series of assumptions and creating their own echo chambers comprised of certain colleagues, who instead of suggesting a resolution, had stoked the conflict.

In one case, during the joint mediation session, which happened in the afternoon, it became clear that the dispute was in fact based on a series of misunderstandings. It became apparent to them that there was in fact no real dispute, they agreed on a lot, which they were both very surprised to learn, and were soon apologising to each other for the miserable time the other had endured over the past months. This all happened within less than an hour. They spent the rest of the afternoon agreeing on a way to work positively with each other from then on. The discussion then turned to how they could make their respective teams work better together. The change in the atmosphere in the room was astonishing. This outcome was not unusual – mediation has a 90% success rate.

What does mediation involve?

  • Mediation is a relatively short process. It usually takes place over a day, with some pre-planning beforehand so the participants know what to expect. The day begins with individual sessions where each participant is encouraged and supported to write down the issue from their perspective and what they are looking to achieve going forward. The afternoon is a joint session where both parties come together to share their individual perspectives, listen to each other and generate opportunities for future working.
  • Importantly, solutions come from the participants themselves and they own the outcomes.

Could your organisation benefit from mediation?

Do you have any employees who are having an ongoing dispute with a colleague or manager? How long has this been going on for? If it has not been resolved through dialogue, then it may be festering. A festering conflict can, and often does, lead to workplace tensions, grievances, sickness absence and all the other hallmarks of an unhappy working relationship.

With its high success rate and relatively short timescale, mediation could provide a compelling and effective solution. It’s important to remember that it is a voluntary process – you can’t require them to do it. If you can get agreement from both parties to participate in mediation, then it might be one of the best things an employer can do for your employees’ wellbeing.

To find out more about mediation, please contact Accredited Mediator, Simon Martin, in our team on 07384 813076.