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Workplace mediation is a process through which parties in a work or work-environment-related dispute attempt to resolve issues with the help of an impartial third party. The third party is called a mediator. The mediation process is usually voluntary and confidential. Commonly, mediation is handled without the presence of lawyers and without the involvement of the court system.
Sometimes complaints, grievances, and disputes develop in the workplace. An employee may feel he’s been treated unfairly or disagree with company policies, for example. An individual may feel harassed or bullied. Team efforts may break down, and people may become less cooperative than normal. When conflicts occur, a workplace mediator may be called in to assist the parties with solving the problem and finding a way to continue to work together productively.
Mediators are often trained in dealing specifically with workplace disputes. These experts understand the importance of remaining impartial, so neither party feels ganged up on or ignored. They also understand the process and how to guide the parties to a solution without placing blame or imposing solutions. Since mediation is often voluntary, it is important for the sessions to remain emotionally neutral and productive to avoid a breakdown in the process.
Workplace mediation may seem like a process that is reserved for serious conflicts, but it may also prove helpful for putting a stop to conflicts before they become serious. Workplace mediation may even be productive after a conflict has been resolved, helping to patch up strained workplace relationships.
The success of workplace mediation typically depends not only on the skill of the mediator, but also on the willingness of the participants to cooperate. For the process to work well, the participants usually have to desire a solution that allows them to continue to work together. This often means discarding hopes of winning in favor of solving a problem quickly.
There are some workplace conflicts in which mediation may be considered inappropriate. For example, mediation may not be appropriate if one of the parties feels threatened by the other and fears for his physical safety. If parties are forced into workplace mediation and do not wish to cooperate, the process is likely to fail. If either party feels that a court’s judgment and legal action are necessary, he may be less likely to put effort into finding an agreeable solution in mediation. Since a mediator cannot force a solution, his efforts may be wasted in such cases.