December 14th | 2017
Workplace Mediation – is it for a grievance, a dispute, or ongoing interpersonal conflict?
It is time for companies to reconsider how they use (or don’t yet use) workplace mediation, now that employment tribunals might be on the rise again. Although numbers of workplace mediations are increasing, the full potential of its positive impact is still to be discovered. Every report and academic study (see Richard Saundry’s Reframing Resolution, 2016) makes the observation that it is often called upon too late to be at its most effective.
What if we conceptualise workplace mediation as a management tool, rather than an HR process? As soon as folk approach HR there is a formal atmosphere – even though “informal” processes such as mediation is offered -it often does not feel informal to those involved. Many participants in A Bennett’s et al’s research (Experiencing Mediation from a Disputant perspective 2016) felt that attending a mediation did not feel completely voluntary as it was suggested by HR.
CIPD report that 38% of workplace conflicts involve a difficult interpersonal relationship. This is a subtle but identifiable change to historical disputes which centred on specific issues- such as working conditions. Calling on an independent mediator to work with pairs or teams of employees, in a confidential process, can help develop the skills of workers and managers alike. And most importantly, stave off the emotionally draining processes of formal grievances and industrial tribunals.
So - yes we can mediate with parties at the beginning of potential grievance. Yes we can offer mediation after a grievance hearing. We can mediate a specific dispute. But the scope of the process to deal with ongoing difficult unproductive working relationships has yet to be exploited. So let’s get the message to more middle and senior managers, partners and board members to know they can request such a service.