by Rita Bailey

Getting employees to the table

Mediation helps to ‘nip disputes in the bud.’ It is highly recommended as an early intervention solution. Its great benefit is it can leave individuals feeling confident, because they have moved forward, putting any bad feelings and resentment behind them.

Why people may resist

At its best, mediation is a win-win approach – a positive way of working with disputes. However, employees may sometimes resist mediation. This happens for several reasons:

  • Because it is not seen as the normal way resolving disputes – unfortunately, some organisations have a culture of litigation, disciplinary action and tribunals
  • Because of an entrenched view that nothing can be resolved
  • Because the person feels that there will be a loss of ‘face’, a loss of feeling ‘in the right’, or a loss of authority and status.

At these times, it may seem to them a better option is to avoid confrontation.

Explain the process

Acknowledge that if mediation is not normal practice staff may still have misgivings about its ability to help them move forward. To encourage individuals to come to the table you need to share clear understandable information about

  • What mediation is
  • Your role as mediator
  • The mediation process
  • The opportunity it offers.

You should approach each individual separately to explore their interest in participating in mediation and their expectations of the process. Be prepared to emphasise the positive aspects of mediation; describe what takes place and explain how mediation can meet the need to get everyone working together effectively. You should emphasise how each individual can benefit from it, explaining that they will make their own decisions and be in charge of their own response.

Remember that disputes stir up lots of emotions – more than staff members care to admit at times. They are also influenced by anxiety over what may actually take place or what could happen if they participate. In addition to explaining the process clearly and thus alleviating any anxieties, you should emphasise that mediation can help each person to meet their particular need.

  • Give examples of ways in which mediation can work for each individual.
  • Give each person time to think about taking up the mediation opportunity.
  • Offer a deadline for when you want to talk again.
  • Suggest a time-bound mediation meeting.