Nipping it in the bud: Mediation for workplace disputes

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Workplace conflict is inevitable, but its impact on the health and welfare of a business when it remains unresolved can be extremely costly. Increasingly, managers are turning to mediation  as an effective tool to restore productive working relationships.

In this article, EEF’s own mediation team draw on their expertise to offer some advice for managers looking to resolve conflict through mediation.


Start early

Many companies are positioning mediation at the end of formal procedures (usually grievances) or where it has been recommended by Occupational Health as a means of re-introducing an employee who has been off work through ill-health (usually stress-related) to the workplace.

Mediation works most effectively when offered early, when it can even prevent a more formal procedure from being necessary and before a problem escalates. To prevent problems from becoming a formal grievance, companies should promote a talking culture at work by incorporating mediation into policies and procedures. 

When speaking to parties in the initial stage of mediation, we often hear about the impact of investigations on them and the additional stress and sense of alienation that these place them under. Without that early intervention, the process typically takes longer as the mediator works with each party to help them deal with and overcome difficult feelings engendered by formal procedures and/or absence from work. 

To put it another way, in medical terms, trauma consultants often refer to the 'Golden Hour' - the critical early moments after injury which have vital implications on long-term survival.  The secret to swift dispute resolution is to adopt a similar approach in the workplace with Mediation.


A win-win scenario

Mediation gives employees the opportunity to discuss their problems at work with a neutral person who has no interest in the outcome. If used early, mediation can save the time and cost of lengthy investigations and can enable the parties to get rid of the ‘walking on eggshells’ feeling and remove the sense of dread of coming into work.

When trying to encourage employees to try mediation, explain the benefits – including that they contribute to the outcome rather than just waiting for one from a formal grievance process. Remind them that they are at liberty to withdraw from the process at any time and instigate or revive formal procedures. Note that all discussions are off the record and will not be used against them at a later date.

Mediation is a proven solution for dealing with workplace conflict yet is often overlooked in favour of formal intervention. Leaders looking to promote a listening culture by incorporating mediation in their policies should get in touch with a trained mediation consultant.

How we can help

EEF provides independent mediation from qualified, accredited and experienced experts. Get in touch to find out how our mediation professionals can support your business.


National Mediation Lead

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