No matter where you work, there will be some form of conflict among your team or co-workers. If you’re working in an international team then you can pretty much guarantee that the company has a Mediation department to handle any issues. However, knowing the basics can save the day when minor conflicts occur. Conflict in the workplace, groups, and teams is to be expected and accepted. However, when a minor conflict begins to grow and escalate its in everyone’s best interest to take proper notice before there’s a full-blown meltdown. When negative conflict happens its handy to have someone on the team who can reign in on the madness without having to involve management or the HR department, and the skills to know when its time to call them in.
Allowing a neutral third party to intervene between people in a dispute in order to bring about an agreement or reconciliation.
The Five Styles of Mediation
The mediator structures a process to assist the parties in reaching a mutually agreeable resolution. The mediator asks questions; validates and normalizes parties’ points of view; searches for interests underneath the positions taken by parties; and assists the parties in finding and analyzing options for resolution. The facilitative mediator does not make recommendations to the parties, give his or her own advice or opinion as to the outcome of the case, or predict what a court would do in the case. The mediator is in charge of the process, while the parties are in charge of the outcome.
An evaluative mediator assists the parties in reaching resolution by pointing out the weaknesses of their cases, and predicting what a judge or jury would be likely to do. An evaluative mediator might make formal or informal recommendations to the parties as to the outcome of the issues. Evaluative mediators are concerned with the legal rights of the parties rather than needs and interests, and evaluate based on legal concepts of fairness. Evaluative mediators meet most often in separate meetings with the parties and their attorneys, practicing “shuttle diplomacy”. They help the parties and attorneys evaluate their legal position and the costs vs. the benefits of pursuing a legal resolution rather than settling in mediation. The evaluative mediator structures the process, and directly influences the outcome of mediation.
Transformative Style or Conference Style
Transformative mediation is based on the values of “empowerment” of each of the parties as much as possible, and “recognition” by each of the parties of the other parties’ needs, interests, values and points of view. The potential for transformative mediation is that any or all parties or their relationships may be transformed during the mediation. Transformative mediators meet with parties together, since only they can give each other “recognition”.
Relatively new and generally more for professional mediators.
Types of Conflict
- Problem: Issues which are buried underneath the surface of the conflict; issues which are often avoided; personality conflicts, etc.
- Solution: Mediator listens to uncover hidden motivations for the underlying conflict, re-frames the problem and presents it back to the individual.
- Mediators Job: To restore balance and provide clarity, and to be a bridge between two issues.
- Problem: Issues (generally emotional) which both parties are aware of but avoid in a passive aggressive manner until one parties irritation erupts.
- Solution: Mediator listens to feelings as the parties vent emotionally to uncover the underlying conflict.
- Mediators Job: To provide perspective.
- Problem: Issues which never seem to be resolved; a merry-go-round of deeper issues.
- Solution: Mediators can help by listening and re-framing the problem in a way that specifically addresses the problem without the clutter of the underlying emotions attached by the individual.
- Mediators Job: To be a neutral third-party.
The Co-Worker Mediation Process
If you’re a natural mediator and you find your team having negative conflicts in the workplace, you can step in and offer to help your colleagues come to an understanding about the conflict. If all the parties agree to allow you to step in then you need to know what to do to be an effective mediator.
The first step is to create an understanding between parties and introduce them to the process
- Be prepared
- Ask if you can take notes
- Do your research
- Prepare disputants
- Lay down ground rules
- Ask if there are any secrets that you as the mediator should not share with the other party
- Inform parties that notes are to be destroyed at the end of each session
- Consider timing
- Consider feelings
- Explain the goal
- Outline the process
- Use a mediation statement and/or opening statement
- Understand that disputants may get mad at you
- Explain what you can and cannot hold in confidence
- Remind co-workers that you’re there to listen to their concerns
- Remember underlying personality characteristics and negotiating styles of disputants.
- So what I heard you say is this:
- But what I also heard an underlying issue which is this: