With the ACAS Code on Discipline and Grievance and grievance policies making it clear that attempts should be made to resolve problems at work informally in the first instance, how can HR managers get that all important buy-in to what is a voluntary process?
Check your policies
Firstly, check your policies to see if they refer to mediation. If they do, then you have a good reason to raise it. If they don’t, then refer to that part of your grievance policy that mentions informal resolution.
Find out the secrets to resolving disputes through mediation in this webinar.
Common workplace conflict and grievance situations
Here are two familiar scenarios where mediation offers a speedy and effective solution:
An employee complains informally to his or her manager and/or HR about another person – something said or done that is upsetting them. They want ‘something done about it’.
A formal grievance that complains about the behaviour of another employee – bullying and/or harassment may be mentioned.
In both instances the employee is expecting the company to find the solution – effectively they are handing over the problem. The situation has created a lot of anxiety and distress for them and they are unable to sort things out themselves. They may have become unwell and be absent from work because of stress.
As you might imagine, to suggest mediation may well result in some resistance. The other person may not know that complaints have been made about them and so far as they are concerned, they’ve done nothing wrong – it’s all the other person’s problem, so why should they agree to mediation? If they do know about the complaint, they are likely to feel hostile and resentful of the other person and feel that the better course of action would be for the grievance to be investigated so that they are found to be blameless.
How to get employee buy-in
To encourage employees to engage in mediation, outline the benefits to them of mediation:
Can bring lasting change and improvement as both sides have an opportunity to explain their side of things: point out that formal processes involve investigation and are not designed to bring about a mutually beneficial resolution.
Can resolve the situation quickly and fairly: explain that where no grievance has been raised, the company has nothing to investigate and ‘having a word’ with the other person may not solve the situation.If a grievance has been raised, explain that the process can take some time to complete and can add to the stress the individual is already suffering.Explain that the company values them and the work they do and wishes to help them reach a solution quickly and with the aid of a neutral third party.
An opportunity to be heard: explain that mediation provides them with the opportunity to explain their thoughts and views in detail to an impartial person in a confidential setting, and that they will not be required to justify their feelings, nor provide proof to back up what they say.
No downside: point out that the mediator will assist and will not force anyone to do anything they do not want to do. Everything is handled confidentially and with their consent.
The process can be set up quickly and takes only a day and a half to complete.
In short, you can sell mediation as a positive process to engage in and an opportunity to clear the air and move forward towards a more harmonious and comfortable work environment for all.
To learn more about the benefits and process of mediation in the workplace, download this guide.