Ah, success. The smiles. The handshakes. The end-of-day polite goodbyes. The opposing parties moving onward and upward. Some heading off to notify their respective stakeholders of the agreements. Some hurrying home. The discussion has resolved the issue. The mediation is now concluded. The dispute is over... or is it?
Colleagues and clients tell me that occasionally they receive distressing calls following a meeting. Usually the caller is one of the lead participants. "I thought we had this deal fully understood, but apparently we don't." Oddly, the recollections by the parties are now different. Within just a few days of the mediation's conclusion people are questioning the finer points of their agreement.
Why does this happen? More importantly, how can this be avoided?
At the risk of oversimplification, a very high level review of workplace mediation essentials might prove helpful.
The parties should be sure that they:
- Write a problem statement -- to the satisfaction of all the participants.
- Capture the common objectives of the parties in short, simple phrases.
- Brainstorm the options that might resolve the issue -- doing so without qualifiers and without dissenting or supporting comments at this point.
- Review the (devil is in the) details of each option. Include the advantages and disadvantages of each. Now is the time for comments and concerns.
- Link the options to the shared objectives. If an option doesn't support an objective, drop it.
- Write a solution statement, memo of intent or formal agreement. Include examples of how the outcomes work and how they impact the individuals involved both now and in the future.
- Schedule a follow-up between the mediator and lead participants. Review "the bidding" and assure that agreements are intact. A quick phone call or video conference suffices.
Workplace mediation has its own rhythm and style -- and is uniquely different from other specialty mediations. There is a business context to resolving employee issues. One thing we know and account for in employee and company problem solving is that the mediation is not over "day of." Mediator follow-up is essential.
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.