January 27, 2016

How to resolve workplace conflicts

It’s an inevitable fact of life that, whenever there is a gathering of people, conflict will arise from time to time.

The work place is no different. How does an organisation handle or resolve such conflict? Is timing an important factor in resolving?

Mediation is not often a consideration given by organisations to resolving disputes between work colleagues – but often this can be an effective way of handle disputes within the workplace.

What is mediation?

It is a process whereby an independent third party (the mediator) assists two or more parties who are in dispute to try to reach a mutual agreement as to how they will work better together in the future. Although the outcome is not legally binding it stands as a moral code for the parties.

In order for the mediation process to be successful those involved are required to:-

Know what to expect

In order for the mediation session to succeed, it is important that the parties have an understanding of the mediation process so that the business and the individuals taking part understand what it is they are entering into. The mediator’s role is significant in that it is his/her responsibility to manage the expectation of the participants and ensure that they are met

The process involves a series of meetings that are facilitated by the mediator.

Enter the process voluntarily

Voluntarily entering into the process is one of the most important aspects of mediation. A party forced into enter the process will not enter with the right frame of mind. Therefore mediation is unlikely to work if participants do not engage in the process freely.

Be prepared

Being prepared will ensure that the participant get better satisfaction from the session. It is of significant importance when the participants mentally collect and organise their thoughts and prepare themselves for what will, at times, be a challenging and intense, but also satisfactory day.

The participants will be required to provide the mediator with a full explanation on events to date which in some cases, may make the person explaining uncomfortable. This may particularly so where the working relationship is uneven such as a Manager and a junior. Other factors which may contribute to the situation being intense is the impact it is likely to have on the team/section, but more importantly on each other.  The participants will be encouraged to look at realistic outcomes that can be measured and managed by both sides.

Be honest

The process requires the parties to be honest and truthful for there to be success. If participants deny or fabricate what has happened, how they have reacted, or exaggerate the situation they will not be being fair to themselves or others involved. The mediator, as an independent third party, relies on the truth being told and works with the information given, nothing else.

Respect those involved

From the outset respect is key to the process getting off the ground. Although a lot may have been said that may have fuelled the situation for the relationship in question to have been broken down, the parties are required to respect each other’s views and that of the mediator. A disruptive and rude session will only make matters worse.

Trust the mediator

A mediator with experience of employment/HR related issues is likely to be preferable due to his/her knowledge of employee relations and practices. He/she is more likely to identify the issues that may give rise to future employment relationship problems for all.

Focus on the future

Typically the mediation may begin by asking each party to describe the situation as they have experienced it in order to set the scene and understand past concerns and what harm may have been done. The rest of the day will focus on what the future looks like and will not dwell on the past in any more detail.

Keep working on the agreement

By the end of a successful mediation day the parties will have drawn up an agreement that they will use to help them work well together when they are back in the work environment but this is not the end.

If you need help of advice on this topic, contact us. You can also keep up-to-date with our handy Employment Law Guide.

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About the author

Francis Scoon

Francis has over 20 years’ experience of Employment Law and HR related issues gained in both large public and private organisations. As well as representing SMEs, Francis has worked in the Employment Department of a large regional law firm, advising preparing and representing cases on behalf of claimants. Before joining Moorepay, Francis was a Senior Advocate where, in addition to maintaining a caseload of employment tribunal cases covering all aspects of employment law, he managed a team of advocates and an administrator.