Workplace conflicts are usually interpersonal. Whatever its cause, workplace conflict is infectious and very expensive. It damages morale, performance, productivity, profit, employees' health and retention rates.
Employee conflict costs Australian businesses between $6b and $36b annually. Nearly 50% of people would prefer to look for a new job than deal with workplace conflict.
Mediation helps by providing a safe, structured environment that helps people understand the conflict and make an agreement that they can work with. People are more likely to stick with agreements that they made themselves than solutions that were forced on them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Mediation is structured to help people make logical, informed agreements. Everyone has an obligation to disclose all relevant information at mediation.
The mediation process has two parts.
1. Intake sessions are held with each party. Sessions take about 20 minutes over the phone and cover three main things.
- The situation and background to the dispute
- Any factors indicating that the case is unsuitable for mediation
- Explain how the mediation session will be run.
2. The mediation session.
- Opening statements - mediator then each party
- Agenda setting
- Issues exploration
- Parties' private sessions with mediator
- Option generation
- Decision making
- Write and sign the agreement.
Forgetting the true cost of workplace conflict
Unresolved workplace conflict inflicts dollar costs on the business - low productivity, absenteeism, resignations and psychological injury claims. Resolving conflict early minimizes these costs.
The employer doesn't have to have all the hard conversations
Resolving conflict puts managers in a difficult position - they have to take care of their people and the business. It's better for everyone if a neutral third party - a mediator- helps the people involved to have a conversation about the problem and how they will resolve it.
Mediating late in the conflict
Workplace conflict is infectious. It affects other employees and workplace culture. Resolving conflict as early as possible minimizes impacts on the people in conflict, other employees and damage to team culture
Forgetting that psychological injury claims are increasing rapidly
Psychological injury claims have increased by 50%. People are off work for two to four months with treatment costing around $15,000. Resolving conflict early minimizes the likelihood of psychological injury and shows that people have had procedural fairness.
Mediation is a confidential process that protects people's reputations and private information. Both parties sign an agreement to mediate that includes a confidentiality clause.
Anything said during the mediation session cannot be repeated outside under any circumstances. Notes make during all mediations are destroyed at the end of the session.
The only documents that leave the mediation session, and that can be used outside, are the agreement to mediate and my letter to employers.
I keep a copy of the agreement to mediate and destroy all other records including emails and notes.
If you are attending workplace mediation I recommend that you don't discuss it with your colleagues. It's a private matter between the people involved and best for everyone if it's kept confidential.