Workplace Mediation -- An Internal or External Process?

'Are you kidding? HR isn't neutral. Neither are the attorneys. Both know where their paychecks are cut.' Well, no. I wasn't kidding. I had suggested last week that either one of the two professional backgrounds could perform well as an in-house mediator. Surprisingly, the number of dissenting comments added up quickly.

And separately from that feedback (in a training session on the use of mediation traits as a conversational skill) classroom participants asked how they could ever truly act neutral when their bosses hold certain expectations that they advocate for one side or the other?

With executive support, comprehensive training, on-going employee communications, and the benefit of time and practical experience, internal mediation programs are more universally accepted today than a decade ago. With the initial guidance and observation of outside mediation professionals, many organizations have instilled a culture of trust and enthusiasm for mediation.

The challenges of internal mediation to be neutral exist, of course. But they can be overcome. The practitioners must agree that the focus of a mediator's job is on the process, not on evaluation or representing the boss. Want a forum for evaluating the best case and making a binding decision? Don't use mediation. Do you prefer that mutually developed resolutions are the healthiest way to address employee complaints and concerns? Then workplace mediation can be a godsend. Just be aware that mediation is not successful without work and clear thinking.

Establishing an internal mediation process has a huge upside -- including a positive impact on budgets, time, and morale. Internal mediation does work. And so does external mediation. Consider both as viable options available to your organization.


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.