Workplace conflict can have a hugely negative impact on organisations. Global research found that, on average, each employee spends approximately one day a month dealing with conflict in some way.
Often this will escalate into a formal grievance and may even lead to an employment tribunal. Mediation is a procedure in which parties discuss their disputes with the assistance of a trained impartial third person who assists them in reaching resolution, often avoiding escalation of the matter. Here, we look at our 10 top reasons as to why introducing and using mediation in the workplace makes sense.
1. Manage conflict proactively
Conflict can occur in any employment relationship and is best dealt with early and at source. Mediation is the informal tool which can be used for nipping the conflict in the bud and proactively working on improving relationships and preventing matters escalating to the point of having to “react” with formal processes.
2. Reduce the prospect of litigation
Disagreements can take various forms including relationship breakdowns, personality clashes, communication problems, and bullying and harassment. If left unchecked, these can fester and escalate, potentially leading to grievances and discipline procedures or even employment tribunals.
3. Increase chances of settling any dispute
Mediation is a voluntary process led by an impartial third party, however the ultimate control over the outcome rests with the parties themselves, not the mediator. Having that control and ownership of the solution means that settlement is much more likely to be reached.
4. Mediation is fair and impartial
One of the main reasons that mediation is effective is that the mediator is independent and impartial. This allows the parties to be open and honest about their needs without fear of reprisal from the organisation.
5. Saving substantial costs and resources
Going through a formal process imposes legal costs and the potential for huge settlement amounts on the employer, plus it will also represent significant costs for the employer in terms of management resources and management time. Mediation on the other hand is not free, but it will nevertheless save substantial costs and resources, especially in the long term.
6. Enable confidential dialogue in a safe environment
One of the most important principles of mediation is the confidentiality of the process and all the conversations that take place. The ideas and solutions discussed are not binding until agreed at the end, and the mediation discussions cannot be used in any future litigation therefore creating a safe space for exploring different resolutions.
7. Allows for personalised solutions
The aim of the mediation is to uncover the needs beyond the stated positions of the parties and facilitate creative solutions for addressing those needs; often non-monetary elements of the agreed solution will be more valuable to the aggrieved party and come at little or no cost to the other. In contrast, going through formal procedures or the legal system will normally limit the outcome options to monetary compensation only.
8. Can be introduced at any stage of the dispute
Mediation can be used at any stage – early intervention often prevents the issue escalating into a formal dispute but mediation can be used later as well, for example just prior to an Employment Tribunal, and it can also be used to rebuild the relationships after the dispute has been formally resolved.
9. Quick to set up
The flexibility of the mediation process allows for the initial meetings to proceed almost immediately and more often than not, a single mediation session will be enough to resolve the dispute.
10. Mediation works!
Mediation is often a much more productive approach to resolving conflict in the workplace than more formal methods. It can help to improve trust and team relationships, especially if it is used to deal with conflicts promptly, as soon as they arise.
For further information on mediation and for help with introducing a mediation scheme to your organisation or to appoint an external mediator to resolve an existing dispute, please contact our HR Consultancy team.