By: Tess Worrell
When should an employer consider mediation?
- Your most productive employee also causes the most workplace conflict.
- A vital employee just accused your long-serving manager of racial discrimination.
- Your dad started the company–now his decisions may take it under. And. your livelihood with it.
The causes of workplace conflict are myriad and the stakes high. Lost profits, bad publicity, decreased morale, and destroyed business relationships to name a few.
Though employers might prefer to either ignore issues or simply let a regulated procedure take over, neither is likely to accomplish the real goal. Employers want a productive workplace which makes the 40+ hours per week satisfying for all. Mediating disputes can get you there.
Mediation offers a forum–Most often, people just want to be heard. In many instances–workplace conflicts are resolved through a process where those involved privately tell their side of the story. A neutral party then imposes a decision by which both must live.
In mediation, those involved in the dispute express ther perspectives to one another. They get to look the other person in the eye and convey their anger, hurt, confusion–the range of emotions and personal impacts caused by the dispute. As the mediator guides those involved to truly listen and understand the perspective of the other person–the opportunity for real reconciliation is laid.
Mediation offers education–People struggle when a situation seems overwhelming or confusing. Mediators help those participating break the issues into manageable pieces. Then, mediators either directly provide or guide participants to obtain and share the information needed to understand the issues. Sometimes this includes facts and figures; sometimes learning comes as perspectives are shared.
An highly determined leader learns how to change his communication patterns to tap differing personalities and create a well-rounded team rather than running roughshod over fellow workers. A manager of one race, given the opportunity to hear directly the emotional and relational impact of her actions from from an employee of a different race or culture, gains understanding of the magnitude of seemingly casual behavior. A father learns from his son’s insights on the changing marketplace and adjustments needed to stay competitive. As the mediator helps parties build a foundation of trust and shared goals, they learn from each other the elements needed to make the workplace relationship, not only function, but thrive.
Mediation creates a shared plan–People don’t typically embrace a solution forced upon them. Productive relationships require trust. Forced solutions generally destroy that trust. Thus, even though the visible conflict is over–the productivity never returns. Quarreling employees, ordered to squelch the conflict, find it difficult to work together. Employees who lost a respected manager shun the employee making the complaint. The father steps out of the business to keep the peace, and long-term customers take business elsewhere.
When those in a conflict design the solution, this builds trust. Not only do those working through the issues find a better working relationship, the healthier solution permeates the company. A workplace that effectively deals with conflict creates a security where teamwork and productivity flourish.
When should employers use mediation to resolve disputes? Whenever disputes linger beyond what employees can effectively manage on their own. In so doing, employers protect their workplace and their bottom line.