"The employees and the managers just don't like or trust each other. Mediation isn't going to get rid of that bad blood. Not here. Not ever."
Agreed. The use of mediation to resolve any employee complaint or grievance is not going to repair a lousy relationship.
Why? By and of itself, mediation is not designed to fix difficult situations that are borne of years of mischievous and bad behavior. We all know that tough times and overbearing personalities can ruin the desire for labor, employees, and management to work together for the common good. And that is why you so often hear "I'm not going to help them until they start trying to help us."
Since mediation does not repair relationships, or correct the history of what caused the poor feelings in the first place, what does mediation actually offer beyond just fixing one formal complaint?
Workplace mediation clearly opens the door for relaxing contentious management views about employees, and unions, and vice versa. It offers managers a renewed degree of faith that employees are not just evil interveners in the needs of business. A single mediation session can encourage participants to think about working together instead of against each other. Sometimes people look through the mediation door and like what they see on the other side. Other people look through the door, like what they see, but cannot move forward out of habit. Many, though, find that mediation offers a surprising glimpse into the potential that exists for even modestly improved cooperation.
The resolution of individual complaints is a stepping stone towards developing future work relationships, creating mutual agreements that can be applied on a going-forward basis, and solving other general misunderstandings. In most cases those who try workplace mediation discover that "the other guys" are not blind to the needs or wishes of co-workers -- more likely they are just unaware of them.
Mediation requires guidance and practice. And with both it can become an invaluable tool for managers, employees, their representatives, and attorneys. Mediation is a cost effective alternative and complement to litigation while not undermining anyone's legal options. It just widens the array of ways to solve problems without the noise, cost, and entanglements of formal legalities.
Participants who mediate walk away with insight and empathy. Workplace mediation is the realization that steps can indeed be taken to improve working conditions and workplace results.
Mediation gets you past the "Not here. Not ever."
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.