Workplace Mediation -- Written Agreements Make The Difference

As your workplace mediation begins to end, the most valuable agenda item still remains -- the written agreement. But why write a letter of agreement when your solution statement (boarded just beforehand) defines the settlement parameters so well? Everyone is already on board, right? Actually, the answer is 'no' they probably are not. And here is why.

In order to conclude, mediation commitments have to be made. And since two or more parties are involved in finding their common ground, the resolutions require most participants to take some part in the finished product. Who is expected to do what? When? And how? Failing to capture these details leaves room for confusion and, later, selective recollection. In the absence of a final agreement important steps might be overlooked, or even forgotten entirely.

A written agreement should be: 

  • Specific. The letter should start with the solution statement and then list the ownership of each action item. Otherwise people might end up at cross purposes. For example, "Human Resources will research past cases on this same subject and write a summary for all other participants of this mediation to review."
  • Measurable. State what is to be completed using metrics. "100% of the complaints dating back to January 1 will be logged by Human Resources. Prior years will be excluded."
  • Achievable. Every once in a while the person designated as responsible cannot achieve an action item. Assure everyone is properly empowered. "Settlement offers for complaints from this time period will be developed by Human Resources and Legal, using today's solution statement as a guide."
  • Results oriented. Action is great and feels good but is of absolutely no value without results. "Participants intend that all pending items will be resolved. Any outstanding issues will be scheduled for additional mediation by teleconference."
  • Time bounded. Without firm completion dates actionable items often linger. And over time other priorities get in the way. Avoid this by setting reasonable target dates. "The review of outstanding complaints will be completed by Human Resources within 30 days of today's date. Settlements will be agreed to by June 1st. Additional mediation (if required) will be scheduled by Legal and held no later than June 15th."

Finding mutually agreeable answers to workplace disputes can be a challenge. Don't let your hard work slip away by ending mediation prematurely. Get the written agreement. Everyone benefits.

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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.