When Does Workplace Mediation Become the Right Course of Action?Nick Richards FDRP LL.B MBA GDLP DMgmt MQLS
Conflict can be a healthy element of high-performing workplaces where employees can learn from each other’s experiences and outlooks. Some conflicts can be particularly damaging, increasing staff turnover, depleting performance and in turn significantly increasing risk and overall costs.
Time is of the essence
Mediation is a voluntary process in which parties are bought together in a confidential setting with an impartial person that assists the parties in the resolution of their dispute. The key benefit for parties is that both parties can work together towards an outcome that is developed by themselves collaboratively, rather than an outcome imposed by a 3rd party.
Some parties may reach an agreement on multiple issues, whereas some not at all, however, experience has shown that the majority of mediation participants get a better understanding of how the conflict had arisen through hearing the other parties’ points of view. Many participants note that their ability to communicate with the other party develops which reduces the likelihood of further deepening conflict.
What are the benefits of mediation?
The key benefits of workplace mediation are considerable and include:
- Confidentiality of issues and outcomes;
- Prompt response and resolution turnaround;
- Both parties have a voice in a safe controlled environment;
- Parties are exposed to the source of conflict and are worked with to develop future focussed agreements;
- Parties take ownership of the outcome;
- Demonstrates organisational responsibility to resolving workplace conflict;
- Early intervention means issues can be addressed before they get worse.
Types of matters that can be mediated
Workplace matters that can be mediated include:
- Employee grievances;
- Employee complaints;
- Interpersonal conflict;
- Bullying and sexual harassment matters;
- Remuneration grievances;
- Promotion grievances;
- Performance management.
When mediation is the right conflict resolution tool
Mediation has been used as a tool to resolve conflict for thousands of years, and in the last 30 years has become an effective way for disputes to be resolved quickly, however, as a minimum, the following should apply:
- The employees must be willing to participate;
- The conflict must be of a moderate nature;
- There is no power imbalance between the parties;
- Issues are clear and proposed resolutions are achievable and sustainable;
- The parties are able to effectively communicate their positions
- Both parties are intellectually invested in the process;
- The organisation is prepared to undertake the resolutions and provide support when necessary.
When is mediation not suitable for workplaces?
Mediation in the workplace should not be undertaken when these factors are identified:
- Complex issues that require formal investigations;
- Issues relating to other parties’ conduct or organisational culture;
- Where the parties see the process being merely a formality before another process may be activated;
- When there is a credible risk of injury to a party;
- Where there is a deep-rooted contempt between the parties;
- When the parties are not willing to engage in the process;
- When the parties do not understand that the process is not determinative.
Workplace mediation offers an organisation a prompt and effective process to resolve issues in a confidential setting with a high success rate. The benefits are that organisations have the ability to reduce the likelihood of conflict affecting their bottom line and increase their exposure to risks of litigation, the downturn of staff morale, and turnover.
NOTICE: The above is not legal advice and it is recommended that you obtain tailored legal advice related to your own personal circumstances from an Australian legal practitioner.