Workplace mediation compared with other areas of mediation

Workplace mediation is different to other types of mediation. The main difference is that it is about an ongoing relationship. It involves colleagues who will continue to work together.

As a generalisation, many other types of mediation do not involve an ongoing relationship.

For example, court ordered mediation involves parties engaged in litigation who are “at arms length.” They might never have had a relationship for example, a personal injuries case where a plaintiff is suing the owner of a motor vehicle for injury caused to them. Or they may have had a commercial relationship but that is now broken for example, a franchisee suing a franchisor. In family law mediations, the previous relationship of the husband and wife is over.

Workplace mediation is all about the relationship – the relationship is not functioning as it should be to enable work productivity and team cohesion. The purpose of the mediation is to re-build the relationship.

As workplace mediation is all about the relationship, what does this mean for you as the mediator?

You as the mediator must keep the parties focused on re-building the relationship. This will mean that the parties will need to be encouraged to “let go” their anger or upset regarding the other party’s past behaviour and think about what do they want from the other party for future behaviour.

Obviously, to encourage someone to “let go” anger or upset regarding past behaviour is a big job. It involves a carefully structured intake or pre mediation session in order to help the party articulate to you what has upset them. It will require careful handling in the discussion at the mediation, if the party wishes to raise this. Once they have “vented” to you about this in the intake, they can then be asked to turn their mind to what kind of behaviour they do want from the other party.

As communication is often a problem, the party can be asked to consider practical ideas as to how they could communicate better in the future. Also, what other ideas could they propose to the other party as to how they could work together in the future and avoid the problems they have been having.

You will need high level questioning and listening skills to have a productive intake session. You will need to know the right questions to ask and how to reflect back to the party how they see the issue. You will need to help them go from the journey of meeting with you to meeting with the other party in mediation and coming to an agreement for their future working relationship.