Workplace mediation: how to resolve conflict at work

4 Feb 2020

Conflict in the workplace can occur in any employment relationship, and can easily escalate if it’s left unaddressed or not dealt with quickly enough. Head of Fairlead Mediation, Tim Bennett, explains how workplace mediation can be used to resolve conflict at work and the role of a workplace mediator.

Workplace mediation is a way to resolve disputes between employers and employees without having to go to a tribunal or court. This often means you can reach an outcome that everyone agrees on much more quickly, and without destroying the future relationship between the parties involved.

When workplace conflict arises

Workplace conflict can take many different forms, including employee grievances, pay or contractual disputes or disputes between a manager and an employee.

It is important that workplace conflict is recognised and action is taken in the early stages of a dispute or grievance, in order to prevent escalating costs, additional stress and damage to relationships. Disputes that are solved early on save on time and money.

An employment tribunal is often the last attempt to resolve conflict that has become deeply divided and irreconcilable. A workplace mediator can be involved much earlier in the dispute, allowing the parties to keep talks moving forwards on more amicable terms.

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process that can be used to find a solution that is acceptable to both parties involved in the conflict.

What is the role of a workplace mediator?

It’s important to understand what a workplace mediator can and cannot do.

The role of a workplace mediator is to act as an impartial and independent voice in the room. They will speak to all of the involved and affected parties, listen to all sides of the story and then attempt to facilitate reconciliation.

A simple case may involve a difference of opinion between two individuals, often the employer and an employee. More complex cases can involve three or more parties all with differing viewpoints.

The mediator’s role is not to judge who is right and who is wrong – instead, it is to facilitate an agreement.

What if we can’t agree?

Mediation does not close the door on any of the usual ways of resolving a workplace dispute. If mediation is not successful you can still pursue other dispute resolution options.

However, mediation is a tried and tested method of dispute resolution that can often facilitate the resolution of a dispute while preserving the relationship between the employer and employee.

This collaborative approach is particularly effective when workplace mediation is used early in the dispute process, before the individuals involved become entrenched in their views.

The benefits of workplace mediation include the faster resolution of disputes, more flexible outcomes and mutually agreeable plans for the future.

As an individual, employees will often feel that their employer has listened to their views and taken them seriously where their employer has agreed to appoint an independent mediator. Where the mediation is successful the employee can remain in their job with no lasting negative consequences.

Employers avoid an employment tribunal and can retain talented staff who might otherwise leave.

How to use workplace mediation

As an employee, talk to your manager about whether they offer workplace mediation as a way to deal with disputes – and if not, suggest that they should consider it for the benefits mentioned above.

As an employer, make sure workplace mediation is written into your disciplinary, capability and grievance procedures so that your employees are aware that mediation will be attempted as a way to reconcile disagreements.

How Fairlead Mediation can help

Fairlead’s mediators are independent, impartial and experienced, and have a thorough understanding of employment law and workplace disputes – making us an ideal choice for employers and employees alike to agree on when it comes to workplace mediation.

To speak to a mediator who can advise you about whether a specific situation is suitable for mediation and if so, how best to engage all parties involved to participate, please give us a call today on 0800 6341777.

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