Using Mediation at Work to Solve Conflict

Updated: Jan 14, 2019


A man and a woman having a workplace conflict

Are you experiencing workplace conflict? You may be experiencing it now, or maybe you have experienced conflict with an employee, boss, or coworker in the past. If your business involves other people then you are bound to experience workplace conflict at some point. In this article I talk about workplace conflict and how you can use mediation to resolve it.


First let’s go over what workplace conflict is.


Workplace conflict is what happens when things like hurt feelings and miscommunications affect the business. We are human which means that emotion will sometimes impact our work. When this happens we need to resolve the conflict in order to remove the workplace impact. This does not mean that we try to make all our employees get along and be business besties. It means that when conflict arises we use established techniques to work through the emotion of conflict to come up with a business solution.


When resolving workplace conflict you are always looking at the business impact and trying to find a solution that addresses that.

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Now that we know what workplace conflict is, let’s talk about what you can do about it.


Mediation


Before we talk about mediation, lets talk about the bigger category of alternative dispute resolution or ADR.


ADR is the broad label for activities whose goal is to resolve a dispute outside the legal system. Mediation is a common form of ADR, and often the first type that people think of when needing to resolve conflict.


Mediation can seem overly formal. That is why I always like to consider a facilitated discussion before mediation. A facilitated discussion is where an outside third party or even a trained supervisor can use techniques to help walk two people through a conflict. Mediation on the other hand should be conducted by a certified mediator. The mediator is able to use techniques to keep the individuals talking towards a solution even if it seems they will never agree. The mediator also has skills to make sure the conflict does not escalate during the session.


What to expect during the mediation


Mediation can seem a little scary or even that you are admitting that you, as the business owner, did something wrong. However, mediation is not about placing blame, but is about solving a problem. Even if the mediation does not come up with a solution it is still beneficial, because you can at the very least state that you tried everything and gave it your all. It might make you sleep better at night knowing that you did everything you could to solve the conflict.


Having the right mindset going into mediation will help you feel more comfortable and may improve the mediation outcome. To do this it is important to have confidence in the process, not in the guarantee of a specific outcome. Often mediation is able to resolve conflict, but sometimes you walk away from the mediation without a set agreement or resolution. This is often OK as it may take days or weeks to see the effects. Just the process of mediation may have deescalated the conflict and provided the individuals the perspective shift they needed to move on and focus on the business. You should also have confidence that the mediator is certified and trained to help move the conversation in a productive direction and to ensure unhealthy conflict does not manifest itself at mediation.


Where to find a mediator


It is easy to find a certified mediator. Start with someone you trust. If you already work with an attorney then contact her to see if her firm offers mediation services. If you work with a human resources business partner, like me, then contact her to she if she offers mediation services. Your local court might also certify mediators, but be careful to pick a mediator that is comfortable and experienced in workplace mediation as that is very different from mediation done in the courts for things like child custody.


Schedule a free discovery call to see if mediation is the right solution for you.

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