Mediation is becoming more and more important to HR professionals as a method of resolving workplace disputes and restoring working relationships. Although it has previously been viewed as a soft option, mediation is now fast becoming the preferred method for resolving workplace conflict. Why? Because it really gets results.
What is mediation?
Mediation is an internationally recognised process of alternative conflict resolution, which has been proven to be a viable alternative to litigation in industrial and employment disputes right across the UK. Effective mediation requires the involvement of a neutral third-party to communicate between the conflicting sides, with the ultimate goal of reconciling their differences and ending the dispute through mutual agreement.
Mediation has many benefits – not just for the parties, but for their teams, managers and employers:
1. Mediation places responsibility for the resolution of a dispute directly with the parties.
2. Mediation creates a safe place for all sides to have their say and to be heard.
3. Mediation stops disputes escalating out of control.
4. Mediation reduces the stress and anxiety commonly associated with conflict.
5. Mediation reduces the cost of conflict and reduces the risk of litigation.
6. Mediation contributes to a more productive working environment.
7. MEDIATION WORKS!
The evidence that it works
Unresolved workplace conflict is divisive, damaging and disruptive to all organisations. It can also be extremely costly, especially when such disputes result in lengthy legal proceedings. This was demonstrated last month when it was revealed that the NHS was forced to pay out Ã‚Â£143 million last year in legal fees relating to conflict-based cases that had ended up in UK courts.
Mediation has been proven to be a viable alternative: resolving just one conflict through mediation can save organisations an average of Ã‚Â£20,000, according to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
According to Dr. Michael Peters, Head of the British Medical Association’s Doctors for Doctors Unit: “In my work supporting doctors in difficulty, I feel that mediation is an excellent route to resolving conflicts that allows all parties to be winners. This is especially important in the increasingly stressful environment in which doctors find themselves today.”
Teresa Jennings, Consultant Clinical Psychologist in Occupational Health at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, also describes the highly pressured and changing environment in the healthcare sector, where stress can lead to breakdown in communication and relationships. She says: “Progressive organisations recognise that conflict needs to be tackled early on before it becomes destructive, as it can affect staff health, performance and ultimately impact negatively on patient care. From my experience, mediation offers many benefits in healthcare: it offers a viable alternative to formal dispute procedures which are costly, time consuming and stressful for all concerned; it helps to normalise the experience of conflict in highly pressured healthcare settings where relationships can get strained; and it improves people management and optimises performance in teams. We have seen a culture change – mediation is being used as a first port of call where there are problems with conflict or harassment.”
The benefits of mediation to companies, individuals and budgets
The benefits of mediation can be felt across organizations in every sector. According to Chris McCoy from Visit Scotland:
“The benefits of mediation to Visit Scotland are numerous – swift resolution, reduced costs, valuing employees and supporting HR managers to do their jobs. Not to mention our reputation – any cases that are escalated to an Employment Tribunal become a burden to the organisation, both in terms of cost, PR and public image. Visit Scotland’s business objective is to promote Scotland not only to the UK market, but across the world. We have a very professional team but from time to time things can inevitably go wrong. A mediation team provides an effective solution to getting things right, and letting us concentrate on our primary objective of selling Scotland as a place to come on holiday.”
In complex organisations such as local authorities, mediation can provide a simple route for resolving conflict. Gail Simpson, Employee Relations Consultant at City of London Corporation, says: “Before TCM helped us set up our mediation service we had a very skeletal conflict resolution service. It couldn’t adequately meet the case work that was arising in the organisation. Mediation has helped us to cope with the volume and complexity of these cases.”
Many Higher Education Institutions have also seen the advantages of embedding mediation into their policies, procedures and practices. Mary Siddall, Senior Legal Advisor at University of Southampton, says: “Like many large organisations, we have a lot of staff complaints, disputes and conflict in the workplace which are very draining for everyone who becomes involved. Setting up our mediation service has given us a completely different option for managing that conflict.”