How to be Indispensable to International Teams | Part 5 Mediation


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

Facilitative Style

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.

Evaluative Style

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”.

Narrative Style

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

  1. Be prepared
  2. Ask if you can take notes
  3. Do your research
  4. Prepare disputants
  5. Lay down ground rules
  6. Ask if there are any secrets that you as the mediator should not share with the other party
  7. Inform parties that notes are to be destroyed at the end of each session
  8. Consider timing
  9. Consider feelings
  10. Explain the goal
  11. Outline the process
  12. Use a mediation statement and/or opening statement
  13. Understand that disputants may get mad at you
  14. Explain what you can and cannot hold in confidence
  15. Remind co-workers that you’re there to listen to their concerns
  16. Remember underlying personality characteristics and negotiating styles of disputants.

Begin by…

Delicately and with tact, ask your co-workers what the problem is.  During the natural flow of the conversation use that time to make notes.  You want to write down what they say the problem is, but also make notes as to any underlying issues or conflicts that you infer between the lines.
Use reflective listening to mirror the two points as such:
  1. So what I heard you say is this:
  2. But what I also heard an underlying issue which is this:
Now its important to ask the disputant whom you are addressing if what you’ve said is correct or if you misunderstood.  Imagine for a moment that the two of you are working on a paper and while one writes the story the editor tries to simplify it.  The mediator is the editor.  So ask the disputant if what you’ve just said is correct and allow them to amend or expound on the points that you as the mediator made.
I tend to avoid conversing directly about feelings in this process.  I allow the parties to tell me their feelings, but when re-framing the problem I look for the facts of the issue and then the feelings associated with them.  Its like a layer cake.  I start with what I see, and add hints of what I think/feel the problem is really about.

The next step is to try to reveal clarity

If the problem is a conflict between issues such as work habits or communication you can help to reveal clarity by explaining to each party the unique aspects of the other person.  For instance if a co-worker has been sluggish and putting off work which affects the disputants ability to do his/her own work then if allowable, you may explain to the disputant that the other party has had some personal setbacks and is working to correct it.  You could also remind the disputant that at one point maybe they were also difficult to work with and how that’s changed.

The final step is to usher in acceptance

By aligning the coworkers through clarity you can now bring about acceptance in one another.  You can suggest to the primary disputant that instead of allowing tensions to form and erupt into conflict that they converse directly with the other party now that a sense of personal understanding has been established.  As a leader you want to help your co-workers be more direct, unashamed, and fearless in the right way when it comes to interpersonal communication.  There should be an understanding that its ok to communicate wants and needs to another party, with the other party understanding that it takes communication for everything to flow happily.

Click HERE to view the rest of this series How to be Indispensable to International Teams

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