The number one risk to a successful mediation (suggested by our Mediation Resolves' clients) isn't overlooking the value of writing a problem statement (#2 reason cited). It isn't outlandish participant conduct (#3 reason cited). It is the discomfort of a meeting room that discourages the participants from focusing and taking the time required to explore alternatives. Our advice?
- Have mediation discussions take place in what we refer to as the Common Room. The Common Room allows all the participants to share ideas, concerns, and to develop answers for the issue at hand.
- Set up the Common Room in a conference style with enough seating space for the participants to spread out easily.
- The most important aspect of the Common Room is that it be located in a quiet place -- away from the temptations of other business and interruptions by co-workers.
- Assure access to a strong and steady WiFi signal if any participant will join via video conference. A well placed speaker phone should be arranged for those calling in. Untested, weak, or failing tech can ruin the meeting.
- A table with light refreshments of water, coffee, and snacks makes for a more pleasant day.
- Mediations with larger numbers of participants require additional, separate meeting rooms. We refer to these rooms as the Caucus Rooms. Sometimes parties simply prefer to have another place to meet, in private, and to take breaks.
I believe it is the responsibility of the mediator to assure room locations and setups that work to the advantage of the group. The mediator can make the arrangements. Or the mediator should at least be certain someone is responsible for logistics -- and then follow through with that person until satisfied.
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.