Resolving Workplace Disputes Through Mediation
In November 2011, the Coalition Government published a ground breaking set of proposals ‘Resolving Workplace Disputes’; the Government was making a clear and unambiguous step towards embedding mediation into every workplace across the UK, and since then, early intervention in workplace disputes through mediation has proved to be efficient and cost effective.
Continuing its desire to lessen ‘winner takes all’ employment tribunal cases, from 6 April 2014 the Enterprise & Regulatory Reform Act requires potential claimants to lodge details of their proposed employment tribunal claim with Acas in the first instance. For one month the disputing parties have the opportunity through an Acas Conciliation Officer to reach settlement and avoid a tribunal.
Personal conflict is inevitable in any organisation, though in charities and voluntary organisations, where people are often driven with passion and strong opinions, the potential can be even higher. From initial signs of personal tension, conflict between employees can spiral, into avoidance and confrontation, to polarised opinions, blame, to seeking allies and ceasing of communication.
Negative conflict between individuals or groups of individuals can severely hamper an organisation achieve its goals and damage employee well-being. We all know workplace disputes can accrue huge personal and organisational cost. If the breakdown results in formal complaints, or worse still heading to employment tribunal it’s often too late, and there is no turning back.
Mediation is a process of dispute resolution in which an impartial third party – the mediator – facilitates a series of private and joint meetings with the parties to help them identify a mutually acceptable, appropriate win-win resolution. It is a voluntary, non-binding process which addresses the underlying, or root causes, of conflict or tension. Preceded by a signed confidentiality agreement, the mediator creates the conditions for dialogue using a non-adversarial, non-partisan approach.
The mediator facilitates an exploration of the issues, feelings and concerns of all participants. Helped by each participant reflecting on their impact on the other, and using energy generated by conflict in a positive way, the mediator encourages the rebuilding of the relationship using joint problem-solving. Usually completed within a day, the outcome is a ‘win-win’ written agreement of commitments going forward created and signed by the parties, not the mediator.
Mediation is most effective when used in the initial stages of a disagreement in the workplace, before the parties become too entrenched in their views. Some workplace disagreements are particularly suitable for using mediation, for example relationship breakdowns and some potential bullying and harassment issues.
NOP carried out a telephone interview survey of managers in 500 small/medium-sized enterprises to assess their experience of mediation; of those that had used mediation almost half said that the last mediation had resolved the issues completely (49%), and more that four in five (82%) said it had resolved the issues either completely or partly.
The success of mediation in part lies in the fact that it is voluntary and owned by the parties, and that they enter the process as willing participants with a common goal of wanting to sort out their differences finding win-win solutions. However, the opportunity for mediation to succeed needs leaders of organisations to encourage its use and persuade disputants to enter into mediation with a willingness to listen to each other; to be mutually respectful; to challenge and be challenged, and to seek for themselves a new way of working together.
Written by a qualified and CMC Registered Workplace Mediator from ACEVO Consulting
To speak to an advisor about the matters raised in this article, please call Olabisi Porteous on 020 7014 4619 referencing the article or visit our website at www.acevoconsulting.org.uk