How do you know when mediation is the right tool for resolving a business dispute, workplace conflict, or business divorce?
Here are some ways I find it most effective to gauge mediation’s usefulness for business partners, co-workers, workplace teams, freelancers and clients, and others:
– Those involved need or want to have some type of ongoing relationship due to the structure of the workplace or situation. Mediation can help reduce the relationship debris in ways that other traditional forms of dispute resolution, such as grievances, may not.
– Those involved feel sufficient dissatisfaction with the present situation that they want things to be different. If there’s something about being in conflict that’s working, or the conflict isn’t particularly problematic, then it may not be the right time for mediation.
– Those involved want to maintain control over the outcome. In mediation, the participants decide what will happen and how, which can be important for buy-in to solutions and the likelihood solutions will stand the test of time.
– Those involved have been unsuccessful in resolving the problem on their own or with supervisory or human resources help. If the organization or folks in the dispute have tried other means without success, mediation can make the difference between resolution and firing, resigning, grievance, or dissolving the partnership or business relationship.
– The issues are tangled in strong emotion. Because seasoned mediators know how to work with strong emotion and move conversations forward in those circumstances, mediation can transform a conflict in ways that other approaches may not be able to accomplish.
– The organization or institution supports dispute resolution approaches that empower employees to find better ways to manage their differences. For this reason, mediation has become a type of professional development tool in some organizations.
While most mediators tend to focus on dispute resolution (resolving a specific problem or disagreement), some have particular talents in addressing states of conflict (long-term situations where trust has eroded, tension has increased, and the original precipitating problem is no longer the sole challenge). A skilled and seasoned mediator should be able to help you or your organization decide whether mediation is the most useful approach to resolving a particular conflict situation, whether the timing is right for mediation, and whether they have the right pool of skills and experiences to best assist you.
Dr. Tammy Lenski offers more tips for untangling conflict and getting back on track at work and home with Find Your Conflict Zen, a 5-part series delivered by email. The series begins with The Conflict Zen Guide to Talking It Out in Ten, a worksheet and mini-guide designed especially to help you think through your most important conversations before you have them. Grab your own copy of the tips and worksheet today: http://lenski.com/talking-it-out-in-ten/
The popular The Mediator's Handbook presents a time-tested, adaptable model for helping people work through conflict. Extensively revised to incorporate recent practice and thinking, the accessible manual format lays out a clear structure for new and occasional mediators while offering a detailed, nuanced resource for professionals.
Starting with a new chapter on assessing conflict and bringing people to the table, the first section explains the process step by step, from opening conversations and exploring the situation through the phases of finding resolution—deciding on topics, reviewing options, and testing agreements.
The "Toolbox" section details the concepts and skills a mediator needs in order to:
- Understand the conflict
- Support the people
- Facilitate the process
- Guide decision-making
Throughout the book, the emphasis is on what the mediator can do or say now, and on the underlying principles and core methods that can help the mediator make wise choices.
Long a popular course textbook for high schools, universities, and training programs, The Mediator's Handbook is also a valued desk reference for professional mediators and a practical guide for managers, organizers, teachers, and anyone working with clients, customers, volunteers, committees, or teams.
Jennifer E. Beer, PhD, mediates organizational conflicts, facilitates meetings, and offers related workshops, regularly teaching a negotiation course at Wharton (University of Pennsylvania).
Caroline C. Packard, JD led Friends Conflict Resolution Programs for fifteen years and is an organizational conflict response specialist and mediator based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Eileen Stief developed the mediation process presented in the Handbook, training a generation of mediators to work with community, multi-party, and environmental disputes.