So many of the people we meet in our mediation business have -- as a primary duty -- the job of managing and resolving open employee complaints. Their main goal is to understand the grievances and explore solutions that offer the greatest degree of mutual satisfaction. The idea is that resolved complaints allow the participants to move on with the more urgent business of business.
Resolving workplace issues is an admirable objective. It is hard to argue against problem solving regardless of who you are: employee relations professional, union representative, individual employee, manager or attorney.
So, with all that desire and focus why is it that employee issues linger, fester, lose their urgency and then, to the dismay of those observing, suddenly become explosive?
Organizations (small and large) are burdened with policies, procedures and personalities that, despite all good intentions, wreak havoc on timely fixes to employee concerns. Increasingly a number of situations are pending for months and years because they are tangled up in maneuvering. Unresolved issues drive up costs, require additional time commitments and create workplace hostility.
The most consistent feedback I receive from those labor or corporate organizations that use our services is that speed, open-mindedness, and speed (did I already mention speed?) rank high as two attributes desired by employees in their workplaces. This is true in survey after survey and research paper after research paper.
Mediation is an approach to workplace resolution that is quicker and less costly than traditional internal and legal processes. Mediation works in an atmosphere that is less adversarial and often more productive than other proceedings. And more and more organizations (particularly larger operations) are including mediation in their handbooks and labor agreements - not only as an option but also as a mandatory early step in the complaint process.
When we take an honest assessment of the turn-around time and costs of current complaint processes (both formal and informal) and see delays of six months or longer, hefty attorney fees, and regular outside agency intervention, then we shouldn't kid ourselves - these distractions matter. They do not go away. They do not get buried in administrative time capsules. They fester and they cause friction and distrust.
Solve them. Fairly. Quickly.
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 400,000 readers. He and Mediation Resolves focus on eliminating formal employee complaints, avoiding internal relationship disputes, preventing grievance backlogs, and restarting stalled labor negotiations.