Mediation or conflict resolution in the workplace

Mediation or conflict resolution is often recommended when personal disagreements or conflict between staff members start to disrupt the team's or organisation's work. Often there is growing 'niggliness' or irritation which then becomes impossible to ignore. This may be when somebody makes a formal complaint, or it is plain that two people are avoiding each other, or even when rudeness or rows break out.

A systemic problem or an interpersonal one?

Interpersonal conflict can often take the blame for what may be an organisational problem. It is worthwhile for managers to look at the processes and structures in existence for supporting the team or individuals before moving to mediation or other formal arbitration. Distress and conflict may be signs of ongoing unreasonable systemic pressures, or lack of organisational or managerial support, and paying attention to this may improve the situation and the likelihood of repetition. Mediation is less likely to be effective if the real causes are systemic.

What is the PARTNER approach to mediation?

The PARTNER approach to resolving conflict in the workplace, based on the work of Dr Frederike Bannink and developed by Antoinette Oglethorpe, is becoming increasingly widely used. This approach is based on the belief that, given interest, time and encouragement, individuals are capable of developing their own solutions to such problems. Blame and judgement about what has happened in the past are not of interest; the focus lies in what those in conflict are able to do to solve things. "The expertise of the solution focused mediator lies in asking questions which help clients in this respect and in motivating clients to change." (Bannink 2009).

Good results are being achieved by using meetings between mediator and participants, with the intention of helping to rebuild trust and enabling everyone to figure out ways of behaving that will lead them towards a more comfortable and functional relationship.

What happens in mediation?

After negotiation with the manager or commissioner of the work, I will suggest a series of meetings. In a simple conflict between two people, typically I arrange one or more private meetings of about an hour with each person. Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process and each person must be willing to take part and do what they can to help the process to work. Next, one or more meetings take place with all concerned in which we explore and negotiate the possibilities of moving forward constructively. Follow-up meetings may be needed. Finally, a short report is written which is agreed by the participants before it is forwarded to the manager or commissioner.

If you are dealing with workplace conflict and think mediation may be of help, please contact me to discuss the situation without obligation. I guarantee confidentiality.

If you have a requirement with which I may be able to help, contact me.