Workplace Mediation -- An Ethical Advantage

A workplace mediator’s ethical responsibilities are to avoid coercion, improper influence and conflicts of interest. The workplace mediator also assures that the participants are fully aware of others who might be impacted by mediation decisions.

Beyond setting a professional standard, these ethical guidelines point to an indispensable advantage of workplace mediation.

Before you get upset with me, I am not suggesting that company or union complaint and grievance procedures are unethical -- they are often carefully designed, transparent and well-intentioned. What we have witnessed, however, is that there is a great deal more riding on the results from prescribed internal procedures than achieving the best possible, mutually agreeable outcome.

Union leadership has local constituencies and often national obligations. HR and legal labor relations staffs have bosses who evaluate performance. Outside counsel has paying clients. As a result, the motivation to resolve an employee complaint can unintentionally fall victim to other, unrelated goals and objectives. It happens. That's normal in corporate life.

One of the compelling values of workplace mediation is that it brings together opposing participants in an atmosphere of problem solving instead of win/lose gamesmanship. Mediation is designed to be free of politics and free of those difficult personalities who are coaching the decisions from the sidelines.

I understand that some workplace mediation participants bring marching orders from others to the meeting. But as a mediator with an ethical responsibility to quiet improper influence, I can assure that the parties will enjoy a far greater chance of success than in adversarial meetings. After all, adversarial meetings usually lead to numerous unsuccessful attempts to fix a problem, and then end up with the parties staring at their shoes.

Mediation has the ethical advantage of removing coercion and conflicts of interest in order to surface mutually agreeable results. And I am genuinely enthusiastic about that!

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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.

Workplace Mediation -- Be In Control For A Change

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Workplace mediation brings together opposing parties to explore settlement options that are mutually agreeable. The participants remain in complete control of any decisions that are made.

As a result, workplace mediation is not like any court or hearing proceeding. Our participants don’t present their best cases and then wait to receive a binding decision from some outsider.

Workplace mediators act as neutral and impartial facilitators who encourage resolution without prescribing what that resolution should be. The mediation approach we employ is non-judgmental.

We believe that, ultimately, authority rests solely with our participants. Our workplace mediation represents -- and safeguards -- that process.

The participants are in control for a change. And we love that!

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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.

Workplace Mediation -- Online Or Face-To-Face?

Meeting face-to-face in a room to resolve workplace issues is still viewed by many mediation participants as a better method for discussion than video conferencing.

The main reason for this preference is that people want to 'see the body language and feel the demeanor' of the entire group in order to ascertain what is truly being said. Some find that it is too difficult to appreciate the options that are under review without this sensory input. "You have to be able to see hesitancy and feel conviction," says one employee relations attorney.

When digging a bit deeper, some of our clients also concede that they have a shaky faith in technology. They do not want the flow of conversation interrupted by the awkward disconnects and failures suffered in recent years. "Can you see me now?"

Good points, all. And as someone who has handled thousands of workplace matters, I too have a tendency to prefer face-to-face meetings. It just feels more productive. And I get to do something in a conference room that I really can't do online. I get to cover the walls with flip chart papers holding pertinent information for the meeting -- goals, agreements, outstanding issues.

Budgets and time constraints, however, are so demanding today that online mediation is a growing choice for businesses. It reduces cost and eliminates unproductive travel hours.

Most importantly, technology is offering far superior products for teleconferencing. Providers are delivering stronger and steadier WiFi and Internet connections. And more people are working from non-traditional locations (often home offices) that allow for schedule flexibility and comfort. (You know, wearing shorts and sandals below the pressed blouse or dress shirt when on a video call. The occasional dog barking in the background.)

Technology platforms that create, share and store documents while online are becoming popular. And software that allows me to "paper the walls" with e-flip charts are available at a tenth of the cost of more traditional methods. (We'll showcase what we believe to be the best of these online mediation products in upcoming months.)

Online or face-to-face? This is a choice that blessedly exists. But it is worth noting that workplace mediation is seeing steady and growing interest in the online option.

For me, it just might be time to change an old habit -- and begin to encourage online mediation equally rather than discourage it subtly.

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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.

Workplace Mediation -- Avoid Unresolved Issues

In today's business environment employees are expected to multi-task and accomplish large volumes of work while remaining on top of their game. When there are distractions from the job the probability of poor performance increases.

Unresolved employment issues are more than annoyances. These are not just things for HR or attorneys to handle. The failure to answer pending complaints quickly (or worse yet, to remain silent about them altogether) can directly hit the bottom line.

Workplace mediation fills a huge void in the world of employee and company relations. That void is the ability to achieve quick resolutions to employee complaints.

Organizations are burdened with policies, procedures and personalities that, despite all good intentions, wreak havoc on timely fixes to employee concerns. Increasingly a number of these situations are pending for months and years because they are tangled up in maneuvering. Unresolved issues drive up costs, require additional time commitments and create workplace hostility.

Mediation is a process that includes:

  • Clearly defining the issue

  • Reviewing areas of common interest

  • Brainstorming options

  • Linking options with goals

  • Neutrality and guidance by the mediator.

Workplace mediation not only successfully addresses the challenge of "the tough case" but it also lays the ground work for a conciliatory relationship between the parties in the future. Mediation is a learned process that can be applied to many business contexts -- eliminating wasted time, improving focus and assuring consideration of all the best options.

How old is the coldest case you need to address?

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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.