In Mediation -- Respect Is Not Optional

It's required.

I lost an employer request for mediating an old and lingering issue when I started discussing conduct expectations. And not for a reason I anticipated.

The employer's rep said 'never mind' because of my explanation of respectful behavior. "Our boss will be attending. And he is a bully and antagonizes as a strategy. He thinks intimidation is perfectly okay." And he won't comply if asked otherwise? Nope.

I have been advised over the years not to set behavior standards for those attending a mediation. Some professionals (mediators, attorneys) say such expectations are not true to the inherent precepts of mediation. Yet with my experience of over 1200 workplace mediations I still discuss parameters for behavior that I believe encourage an atmosphere of successful conclusions.

I ask participants to be:

  • Prompt -- to arrive and return from breaks on time

  • Unplugged -- to turn off phones and tablets and avoid outside activities or visitors

  • Respectful -- towards everyone

  • Patient -- if they hear the same old things they have heard a dozen times before, it's okay

  • Creative -- because new solutions during mediation often are richer and more varied

  • Open minded -- to new ideas, even when they feel they have already compromised enough

  • Participative -- to speak out, be heard, be involved

  • Good listeners -- including focusing on the ideas not the personalities.

These ideas don't seem extraordinary to me. And running afoul of one boss who prefers bully behavior hasn't changed my mind on conduct basics.

Nonetheless, this reason for cancellation was surprising and disconcerting to hear. And it was disappointing to be dropped as their mediator for seeking a respectful behavior demeanor.

(On the other hand, there was also this request recently...)


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.