A workplace mediator’s ethical responsibilities are to avoid coercion, improper influence and conflicts of interest. The workplace mediator also assures that the participants are fully aware of others who might be impacted by mediation decisions.
Beyond setting a professional standard, these ethical guidelines point to an indispensable advantage of workplace mediation.
Before you get upset with me, I am not suggesting that company or union complaint and grievance procedures are unethical -- they are often carefully designed, transparent and well-intentioned. What we have witnessed, however, is that there is a great deal more riding on the results from prescribed internal procedures than achieving the best possible, mutually agreeable outcome.
Union leadership has local constituencies and often national obligations. HR and legal labor relations staffs have bosses who evaluate performance. Outside counsel has paying clients. As a result, the motivation to resolve an employee complaint can unintentionally fall victim to other, unrelated goals and objectives. It happens. That's normal in corporate life.
One of the compelling values of workplace mediation is that it brings together opposing participants in an atmosphere of problem solving instead of win/lose gamesmanship. Mediation is designed to be free of politics and free of those difficult personalities who are coaching the decisions from the sidelines.
I understand that some workplace mediation participants bring marching orders from others to the meeting. But as a mediator with an ethical responsibility to quiet improper influence, I can assure that the parties will enjoy a far greater chance of success than in adversarial meetings. After all, adversarial meetings usually lead to numerous unsuccessful attempts to fix a problem, and then end up with the parties staring at their shoes.
Mediation has the ethical advantage of removing coercion and conflicts of interest in order to surface mutually agreeable results. And I am genuinely enthusiastic about that!
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.