Workplace Mediation -- It's Not A Debate

The thrust of a debate is not to have the participants listen to each other and then reconsider. Instead, the debater's purpose is to speak, to advocate an opposing view, to counter attack another's statements, and to undermine their opponent's stance. Although I don't personally recall being taught debate in just this manner, I do concede that debate today has morphed into this "winner take all" style.

Workplace mediation participants often arrive wanting to debate. This is understandable given that the vast majority of employer complaint procedures, union grievance meetings, and legal venues inspire -- even demand -- debate as the way to get to a resolution. After all, when you end up in front of an individual authorized to make a binding judgement, and that decision is based upon how well the differing sides have been argued, the debate format makes sense.

Resolving issues in mediation requires a different approach however. The boxing gloves are left at the door. Mutual cooperation replaces the idea of one party prevailing over the other. Exploring common ground takes over from presenting some superior context. Creative brainstorming supplants undermining the ideas of others. And resolving the root causes of systemic issues becomes the measure of success instead of just achieving a win.

Workplace mediation creates an environment where the individual participants remain in control of their decisions. And where they are not subject to the contentious arguments of modern debate or a final third party judgement. The idea of mediation isn't to beat the other guy into submission, but to lift up the parties into the winner's circle together.


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.