Mediation is a tool that may be used to help resolve issues and conflict in the workplace. Mediation by a trained and qualified mediator can save time, money, mental toil, and resources. A mediator’s collaborative style allows the parties to determine the outcome. The process allows for creativity. The parties explore the issues, feelings, and interests of everyone involved. The following commentary presents eight possible scenarios associated with work and businesses.
What is mediation?
Mediation is a tool where a trained and qualified mediator meets with the parties as a neutral. The parties determine the process and work towards a resolution.
A mediator uses collaborative skills to promote conflict resolution. Mediation is voluntary. It is confidential.
If nothing else both parties gain a better understanding of the facts, issues, emotion behind the issues, and interests of the parties. This helps to build understanding. On the positive side the parties reach a resolution they both found acceptable.
If conflicts arise at work, bringing in a qualified trained mediator can identify underlying issues, address the issues as a neutral party, and work with the parties to help them resolve their issues.
When might mediation be appropriate at work?
The commentary that follows are seven examples that have proved successful in work settings.
1. Employee to employee
When two employees have a conflict at work that they cannot work out, the situation can become toxic. There are many reasons why this may be the case. For example, personality differences, organizational differences, and cultural differences just to name a few. Sometimes just
bringing in a trained professional that can meet and listen with the participants can make all the difference.
The mediator can ask probing questions and assist the employees in overcoming biases, predetermined judgments, assumptions, communication issues, and other areas ripe for misunderstanding.
2. Employee with manager
In this case the manager holds an upper hand associated with employment, promotions, work assignments, and other elements of control. The playing field is stacked in the manager’s favor. However, given grievances and lawsuits, there may be significant downside risks for the employer in having this situation become public. The process moves into a negotiation with the employee.
With a trained and qualified mediator working with the parties it may be possible to work with the parties to work towards an amicable resolution.
The resolution may result in addressing the situation and have possible long-term positive applications.
3. Business and vendor
Typically, the business and vendor have contracts with each other. This process often clarifies many elements and avoids disputes. However, contracts are not perfect. Interpretations, misunderstandings elements not addressed in the contract, and other issues may arise. When this happens and positions become entrenched, the process of mediation can help the parties.
A mediator can help the parties explore the current state of affairs, clarify the issues, and address the emotion behind these issues.
This process allows the parties to share interests and work towards an amicable resolution.
4. Business and customer
The old adage that “the customer is always right” is not always the case. Typically, the business and customer find ways to resolve their issue using the old adage. However, when there are material issues, and/or other impacts this can be a significant issue.
This process has been brought to a higher level with consumers in Europe with excellent results using virtual mediation. For your more significant cases a qualified mediator in virtual or in person mediation could be extremely helpful.
5. Business and government
Given the law, regulations, and enforcement, there is room for differences of opinion between parties. These differences can lead to costly litigation.
Mediation between businesses and government officials can allow the parties to explore ways to resolve issues without proceeding to court.
This can be at a federal, state, county, or municipal level. Various forums exist to address issues with mediation with many government agencies. The IRS and U.S. Postal Service are two such organizations.
6. Business to business
When businesses collaborate, work together, and produce win-win situations everyone experiences success. When this breaks down between two entities and positions polarize this can be very draining on both parties emotionally, financially, and personally. Resources applied can amount quickly.
Mediation offers an opportunity between business owners, and representatives of the entity.
Mediation provides a process to be heard and understood in a confidential private setting by a neutral. This approach can lead to a resolution to allow the parties to move on.
7. Divorce with a business involved
Family mediators address divorce situations. That is a specialty in mediation. However, when a business is involved this requires a unique application of mediation. Experts in valuation offer a unique challenge for the business owner and spouse.
A qualified, trained mediator with a background in business valuation can help the parties understand the assumptions, limitations, strengths, and weaknesses of their experts.
With an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each side the parties can work with the mediator to make a reasonable determination of value acceptable to each party without litigation.
8. Shareholder disputes
Business valuers with experience in mediation can offer a unique insight when there is a difference of opinion associated with the value of stock. With each party having their own expert and potentially heading to court,
a business valuer trained in mediation can help the clients see both the strengths and weaknesses of the experts by asking questions.
The experts are drawn out to share underlying assumptions, limitations, and potential weaknesses. This allows the clients to work together towards a “reasonable” determination by the parties.
Mediation provides the parties an opportunity to be heard and work with an expert in conflict resolution. The mediation process allows the parties to be the ultimate decision maker in a confidential setting. Whether the scenarios be with employees, management, vendors, customers, government, other businesses, shareholders, or a valuation in a divorce, having the right mediator with the appropriate skills and background can make all the difference.
Michael Gregory is a Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court who is also a Certified Virtual Presenter (CSP) with experience in virtual mediation on a wide variety of issues. With a background in business valuation as an Accredited Senior Appraiser and a Certified Valuation Analyst he offers a unique perspective to help clients. He has experience in all eight areas to serve you and your clients.