Resolving employee issues, complaints, or grievances represents the mainstream (and historic) request for workplace mediation. Increasingly, mediation is being used to resolve other types of internal disagreements, debates, or stalled out discussions. These gaps in workplace cohesion can cause delays, bad feelings, and sidetrack cost reduction opportunities.
Unfortunately, mediation is still reactive in most cases -- scheduled only when problems have surfaced and festered for a period of time. Happily, though, mediation as a preventative step is now being considered more widely by organizations of all sizes.
Addressing flawed policies, edgy human relations environments, or poor internal work processes before (employee or consumer) complaints surface is, of course, wise. And the idea of continuous improvement is not new. However, bringing in neutral problem solving talent to address divergent thinking is. And mediators are quickly becoming the resource.
The historic employee complaint mediation often leads to valuable insights by the mediator on what causes a particular disagreement. Many workplace mediators share their observations afterwards with the appropriate individuals, intending to encourage and recommend systemic improvements. This is a great full-service approach, of course, and one that I fully endorse.
Is expanding the application of workplace mediation just consultant work by another name? No, I don't think it is. Mediators are not selling a pre-constructed product. Mediators do not gain from the installation of one system or plan over another. Rather, mediation is the catalyst to assure that a project is well defined, that the common interests of the participants are identified, and that all the viable options are explored, prioritized, and smartly assigned. Most importantly, mediators quickly resolve differences in opinion.
Mediation has become a "value add" to thriving businesses on several fronts, and is no longer limited to solving employee complaints. Mediation is also about resolving process and policy disagreements among those who are charged with creating best practices.
Thornton Mason is a national dispute resolution consultant and human relations mediator with 25 years of experience resolving over 1200 employee matters. His 60 Second Updates have a current reach of over 750,000 readers. He and Mediation Resolves focus on eliminating formal employee complaints, avoiding internal relationship disputes, preventing grievance backlogs, and restarting stalled labor negotiations.