Understanding workplace mediation

There are lots of misconceptions about workplace mediation – it’s not meditation or medication, although both of those can sometimes help in a tricky situation! It’s important to dispel the myths and get to the nub of what workplace mediation looks and feels like.

The principles of mediation are that it is confidential, voluntary, informal and flexible.

Everything said during the mediation is confidential.  Safeguards of confidentiality are particularly important during mediation to ensure people feel secure enough to be honest and open about the challenges they are facing. Mediation is a mechanism for people to privately work through their issues with an impartial third party.

The mediator may ask for permission to disclose something which is discussed, to help with a successful outcome, but this would only be done with your agreement.

Mediation is voluntary
No one can be forced to take part in a mediation. It is a voluntary process. If it’s not working, you can leave and take a different cause of action.

It’s informal
It’s understood that if the issues have escalated to the point where mediation is needed, tensions can be running high.  Mediation is an informal process and it does not follow any legal or prescribed structure, unlike a tribunal.

It’s flexible
Mediation isn’t bound by any preconceived ideas.  It is a space where people can start to think creatively and differently about their issue.  It’s not dependent upon what may necessarily be acceptable to other people – it’s about the two people in the mediation and how they perceive their differences.

The mediator impartial
The mediator helps you have the best conversation you can have, given the difficulties you are facing.  The key skill of the mediator is not to take sides and to help both parties work towards a mutually successful outcome.  The mediator is there as a facilitator in the negotiations.  They will not make any judgements and they will not make decisions for you.  They are unbiased and will look to help you come to the best outcome.

Initial meeting
The mediator will speak to each of you individuality on a 1:1 basis.  They will ask you questions to enable them to understand each side’s position.  At times this can seem challenging, however it is necessary for the mediator to have a full understanding of the history of the dispute, your current situation and your preferred outcome.

The mediation meeting
If both parties are still willing to meet face to face, the mediator will bring both parties together and will facilitate a conversation to help you work towards a mutually acceptable solution.

If the parties are not willing to meet face to face, there are various options where the mediator can work with both parties, without the need for them to meet.  You don’t have to be in the same room; a skilled mediator will be able to make sure you don’t feel pressured into a situation.

An agreement will be drawn up
Once both parties have moved towards a resolution the mediator will write up the agreed findings.  This can be reviewed by all parties in six to eight weeks time to help keep people on track.

If you’d like to find out more about workplace mediation visit www.woodwardltd.co.uk/.

Written by VA consultant Rachel Woodward.

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