Mediation as a Tool
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WORKPLACE MEDIATION 

Workplace mediation involves a voluntary and confidential discussion facilitated by an impartial mediator between those involved in the conflict. It is essentially a meeting of at least two groups that are at odds, with the purpose of guiding discussions toward a common goal. The meeting is chaired
by someone who is unrelated to the issues being discussed and, ideally, unrelated to the parties involved in the mediation.

Through an interactive and facilitative approach to follow, workplace mediation allows organisations to resolve workplace disputes by re-examining mutual interests of the parties at dispute and coming up with fresh solutions with the help of a ‘mediator’ without the recourse to the court of law. The dispute between the employees is resolved through negotiation using the proper communication techniques where the mediator acts as a facilitator working with parties to try to find a solution. Mediation being a voluntary and non- binding process for the parties makes it easier for the parties to opt as the mediator can only suggest option but doesn’t interfere in the decision of the dispute or compel the parties to consider the possibilities as the parties are in total control of the final settlement and they do not have to adhere to the result if they are not interested. Therefore, it acts as a win – win pact.

HOW IS MEDIATION BENEFICIAL IN A WORKPLACE?

When employees from diverse backgrounds and work styles come together for a common business goal, workplace conflict is unavoidable. If a conflict is not resolved properly, it may result in the depletion of financial resources, time away from work or family activities, and the development of a reputation as a person who is difficult to work with. Conflict in workplace can have a negative impact on productivity and employee’s performance at job because of the time wasted, poor decisions made and lost employees. Employees may end up leaving a position they enjoy in order to escape a negative work environment created due to conflicts between the co-workers and in situation like these, mediation plays a crucial role. It is normal for conflicts to involve strong emotions, entrenched positions, and poor communication. Conflicts aggravate as a result of unmet needs, a lack of conflict resolution skills, and strained relationships and it frequently consume a significant amount of time, energy, and money. When strong emotions are present, it is difficult to think clearly and focus. In the event that problems or conflicts arise between employees, the goal of workplace mediation is to find mutually acceptable solutions without negatively impacting the parties' working relationship. One of mediation's potential flaws, but also one of its strengths, is that no binding decision is made, which means that no outcome is guaranteed. Instead, the organisation tries to address the problem with the support of the mediator, who collaborates with the parties to find a solution, but there is no assurance that the problem will be resolved. While no solution to a problem can be frustrating, it may also mean that the parties to a dispute will be more willing to participate in the process if they are assured that they will not be forced to accept an outcome with which they are unhappy. This means that the emphasis is on cooperating to move forward, rather than determining who was correct or incorrect in the past. Moreover, as the organisation incorporates mediation, the confidence of the employees as well as the parties at dispute increases in their own ability to resolve future conflicts and Mediation can be cost effective and time saving alternative for an organisation in the long term as a lawsuit can cost an organisation an amount this is one of the long-term benefits of mediation. Mediation creates a situation or environment at workplace which helps the employees to be able effectively disagree and solve issues while learning new skills that they can use in future disagreements workplace mediation acts as a tool for people working in organisations that gives them the best chance to respond to current conflict and reduce future conflict.

FACILITATORS OF MEDIATION

Willingness from both parties to engage in the process: Mediation is a transitional process for resolving a conflict. It implies change so in any organisation, it is important that employees understand what mediation is, what it can and cannot do and what it involves and In case of any conflict, it is important for the employees at dispute to agree on what they hope to gain from the mediation process. They will then recognise the importance of investing in the process. This will be possible with the assistance of a good mediator to find a common ground for the employees.
The skills and competence of a mediator: A skilled mediator has a good understanding of relationship dynamics and will be able to quickly identify the primary points of disagreement in a scenario and set the stage for the outcome the two parties must achieve to resolve the dispute. Mediation does not have to result in a final solution; rather, it is more concerned with bringing both parties together.
The presence of an established organisational framework for mediation: It is essential to establish a proper organisational framework for mediation in order for an organisation to reap the benefits of the mediation process as whole. Work councils or court processes can be time-consuming, costly, and stressful, but mediation is a more practical option.

 

BARRIERS TO WORKPLACE MEDIATION

Positioning or labelling of mediation within an organisation: The timing of mediation plays a crucial part for if the organisations are keen to resolve issues informally, they may use mediation too late in the process, as mediation can often be seen as a formal process. More emphasis on using mediation as early as possible in a dispute should be given.
Perceived lack of impartiality in the mediator: It is critical to ensure that all employees involved in the dispute are treated fairly, as any bias displayed by the mediator can lead to a lack of trust in the employees and make it difficult for them to adapt to mediation as a means of resolving conflicts. Trust plays a key role in the mediation process, and it is therefore of extreme importance that mediators are seen to be impartial.
Situations or relationships not conducive to mediation: There are certain kinds of relationships that may not be amenable to mediation. It may be difficult to mediate a conflict that involves an imbalance of power among the parties. Mediation may not be appropriate in a situation in which one party is not interested in preserving the relationship or settling down the matter without involving the legal consideration.

WAY FORWARD

Although mediation is a relatively new form of resolving the disputes, it will make headway as more and more organisations would come to see its benefits and then more organisations would want to engage with mediation as a way of resolving workplace issues and improving the employment relations in their organisation. There is clearly a lot more scope for further raising the awareness of mediation and promotion of availability of mediation in organisations, and this step should be initiated by the top executives of the organization. To state an example of the company that incorporated mediation- Arcadia group. Arcadia Group, which operates over 2500 stores and owns a number of well-known high-street brands such as Topshop and Topman, discovered that the majority of the issues it dealt with were due to miscommunication, and it estimated that grievances between managers and their team members took at least three weeks to resolve. So, in order to address these issues positively, it created an in-  house mediation system. Employees who were having problems with their co-workers were encouraged to use the system to resolve their issues. The scheme tuned out to be so successful that two years later it was extended to the entire group and since then Arcadia Group has been able to reduce these types of grievances in half solely with the help of incorporating workplace mediation as a tool of resolve the conflicts in their company.

-By Garima Goswami
Amity University

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