Mediating Workplace Conflict

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Explain your role
As a mediator, your role is to help both parties negotiate a mutually acceptable agreement.  Your role is not to determine who is right and who is wrong.

Establish the ground rules
Discuss what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.  For example, do not permit interruptions or postures of blame and accusation.

Always be professional
Your behavior should serve as a model to the other parties.  Sincerity and professional courtesy will help raise everyone’s comfort level and willingness to talk things over in a solution-oriented manner.

Supervisory UpdateClarify Postures
Ask each side to make an opening statement.  Both parties should have a reasonable and equal length of time to explain, without interruption, what they want from each other.

Explore interests
Don’t focus only on positions.  Try to find out what each party really wants.  Once concerns are clearly presented, the participants may discover that they really wish to accomplish the same thing, and that it was only lack of understanding that prevented them from reaching common ground.

Talk to each party individually
This gives them a chance to share private concerns they have not been comfortable discussing openly.  As individual discussions are conducted, be sure to maintain a neutral posture to avoid placing yourself in an advocacy role, thereby compromising your ability to function in a true mediating capacity.

Respect confidentiality
Don’t discuss what happened during mediation with anyone who doesn’t absolutely need to know about it.  If you reveal anything from a private session without permission, you may damage trust and credibility.

Don’t solve the problem
Encourage the parties to present their own case.  This helps individuals to develop problem-solving skills and allows participants to develop their own agreement.  People are generally more willing to live up to an agreement they have created themselves.

Put the agreement in writing
A written document, in the most specific terms possible, will help to minimize misunderstanding and provide focus for review and clarification should conflicts again surface.

Provide an opportunity for follow up
Once agreements have been established and implemented, conduct a follow-up visit to review progress, support positive effort and bring closure to the mediation process on a positive note.