Workplace Mediation -- The Truth, The Whole Truth, And Nothing But The Truth

A debate exists among mediators. Their differing views surround how involved a mediator should be in directing the discussions during mediation. Regardless of mediation style, however, truth-telling must be an established expectation for the participants.

The origins of the "to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" standard can be traced to Roman law. And today, the truth still remains an imperative.

Recognizing a lie, an incomplete truth, or even rampant speculation, requires a sharp ear. In a court of law there are clear procedures for calling out untruthful statements. In mediation truth-telling must be moderated by the mediator.

So, back to the style debate among mediators. When the truth becomes twisted does the mediator need to intervene affimatively? Or, should the mediator direct the participants back towards the truth through some line of questioning? Alternatively, is the best practice to accept the lying as some natural dynamic and hope the participants rectify the false claims themselves?

The current public climate seems to accept lies as inevitable. Some even view lying as a form of entertainment. However, I believe it is the responsibility of a mediator to call out lying. I find tolerating mistruths to be disrespectful of both the mediation process and its participants. Others feel differently.


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.