To Mediate or not to mediate – that is the question…
While William Shakespeare put into verse Hamlet’s soliloquy in endless agonising verse about dire choices with absolutely no chance of a happy ending – it is not so with mediation.
Change the name, and the thinking around the word mediation. Let’s start thinking about it and calling it “an opportunity”.
That’s really what mediation is; an opportunity for parties in conflict to come together and sort out their problem(s). It doesn’t have to be the only option, but it should be considered as a first step.
Mediation provides the parties in conflict with the chance to have an honest and open, and usually difficult, conversation. To speak and to be heard; to listen and understand and explore options for resolution. Mediation is also the only process that provides the people involved in the conflict with the opportunity to sort it out themselves, which usually affords the best outcome.
I have the best job in the world; I love being a mediator. Every day I see how the mediation process makes a positive difference in the lives of employees and employers.
Most people are not comfortable being in conflict and it’s not what they sign up for when they start on their first day of work. But conflict happens and people get grouchy with one another, take offence and get hurt by something, or a situation arises that potentially damages the relationship. This can end up with people being miserable at work and others in the workplace being dragged into take sides. Conflict causes damage if it is not addressed quickly.
I have heard, on more than one occasion, employees in mediation tell me that they were on medication, have anxiety, and are not sleeping because of workplace conflict. I have seen an employer’s despair with the negative impact conflict is having on their workplace, causing productivity to decline and putting the business in financial jeopardy. I have observed first-hand the negative impact conflict has on people’s lives.
I would love to tell you that every mediation is like a fairy-tale and everyone gets their wish. However, it is not like that. The reality is that mediation is tough, but the process is honest and the outcomes are ones that can endure and don’t simply unravel the next day.
Sometimes relationships can be repaired and they are even better than they had been, but sometimes the reality is that they simply cannot be fixed and are best to come to an end.
There are also those matters which should not be resolved in mediation. For example serious allegations of bullying, harassment and safety need to be investigated and the best course of action is not to jump straight in and sort things out, but rather to know what is going on.
Whatever the process, it is important for employers to take action and address the concerns, as they rarely improve without intervention.
So to employers reading this less than Shakespearean piece, remember, mediation is one option to address workplace problems and it works if you want the matter resolved. However, in those instances where you need to understand more about what is going on, consider an investigation process before deciding your next steps.
If you find yourself in need of a private mediation, or are unsure which process may be most appropriate, get in touch with one of our associates today.
Mediator, Senior Associate