Has conflict escalated and communication stopped?
Is it unpleasant? Do they want to solve it, yet can’t?
When does mediation work best?
Here, red10‘s Andy Stanley explains the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of our Mediation Service.
Nobody wants to share the office with warring colleagues…
In mediation, it’s common to hear people profess ignorance of their own role in conflict, but it usually doesn’t take long before they change their minds. Often relationships that used to be strong and close have fallen apart through a long, relentless drip-feeding of negativity.
‘She didn’t invite me to the restaurant!’
‘He criticised me in front of the boss!’
‘I heard her talking about me behind my back!’
In most cases, conflict has escalated because the people involved have stopped communicating. One snub leads to another snub and that leads to another, and another and another and pretty soon good friends won’t pass each other on the staircase or change direction when they see each other in the corridor.
Naturally, behaviours like these have a devastating effect on the individuals directly involved, but they also affect those around them. Nobody wants to share office space with warring colleagues, and no business is at its best when critical collaborative partnerships aren’t working.
I want it to be like it used to be!
Individuals come to mediation for a variety of reasons.
Usually they are miserable, they have fallen out with a friend or a valued colleague, they are tired of the endless emotional drain and stress that is caused by tension and conflict at work, they worry about what will happen to their careers, they are fearful that the other person might say or do something unpleasant.
They just want it to stop!
Don’t let it fester
Organisations can’t allow poor working relationships to fester. It’s bad for business, it’s bad for morale and it causes extra work and worry for managers and staff at all levels. Colleagues have to ‘walk on eggshells’, friends are expected to ‘take sides’, promising careers grind to a halt.
There are numerous options available to individuals and organisations, to help them deal with conflict at work. However, most of them involve blame and ultimately punishment. Mediation offers a different and better route for 8 simple reasons:
- It is voluntary – nobody can force you into mediation if you don’t want to be there.
- It is non-judgemental – The mediator doesn’t draw conclusions or offer solutions, neither does she apportion blame.
- It’s private – everything that you say in mediation is private, unless you decide to share it with others.
- It’s informal – mediation doesn’t sit on your record, it doesn’t affect your career, it doesn’t go any further than the meeting room.
- It’s impartial – the mediator doesn’t care who’s right or wrong and he doesn’t take sides.
- It’s fast – most mediations can be wrapped up in a day.
- It’s cheap – certainly compared to arbitration, litigation or the loss of a highly skill employee and subsequent recruitment and training costs.
- It strengthens relationships – often people who experience successful mediation go on to develop stronger, more stable and more adult relationships.
How do I know if it’s right for me?
For mediation to be at its most effective, it’s essential that certain conditions are in place.
The most important of these conditions is that both parties have a genuine desire to find a solution to their predicament. If one or either party has decided that they don’t care, it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to reach a resolution.
Secondly, both parties must be attending voluntarily. You can’t force people to get along, they have to make that choice for themselves.
Next, there must be a solution. That may sound obvious, but sometimes the answer to the problem is out of the hands of the people in conflict. Company policies, legal requirements, judgements made by an absent third party or any number of other causes are beyond their ability to address. In this case, mediation won’t work.
Take a breath
Mediation allows people in conflict to pause, listen, be listened to, reflect and rebuild. It may not result in new and long-lasting friendships, but it often sets damaged relationships back on the path to recovery, and that has to be worth a try!
You can read more about our mediation service, and our mediators, here