Mediation can be particularly helpful in resolving disputes or conflict where there is an ongoing relationship to preserve (e.g. parents and teachers in a school environment, employees or manager working in the same team, department, faculty or shift, families, business partners, coach and athlete, etc). If a dispute involves litigation, more often than not existing relationships are damaged beyond repair.
Many workplaces are turning to external mediators rather than losing valuable staff or managers to internal disputes. Workplace disputes or conflict are a major issue underlying many stress claims and the management or mismanagement of these cases often impact on outcomes.
Unresolved conflict at the workplace can result in the diversion of time and resources from management, absenteeism, staff turnover, decreased productivity and poor morale. Mediation can speed up the resolution of disputes and is a relatively quick process and gives participants a shorter time frame in which to resolve disputes.
Mediation is typically a much quicker and less expensive way to resolve disputes when compared with the cost and effort of litigation or a WorkSafe claim. Dispute resolution is a relatively inexpensive process and can cost between $2,500 - $4,500; but it can cost an organisation many times that amount in lost time and money if the matter ends in litigation, adverse publicity, a workplace stress claim, or an external investigation with Equal Opportunity or the Human Rights Commissions, etc.
Some of the reasons for choosing mediation as an alternative dispute resolution pathway are documented in research studies cited in the National Alternative Dispute Resolution Advisory Council Discussion Paper (March 2000). The study showed that:
- There is a consistently high rate of agreement reached by parties at mediation.
- There is a high level of satisfaction with the fairness of mediated outcomes and the mediation process.
- Most mediated agreements are durable over time.
- The majority of parties believe that mediation gave them an opportunity to understand the other party’s point of view.
- The majority of parties felt that during mediation they had been given a chance to have their say.
Workplace Harassment Case: Mediation Conducted by Carolyn Manning
A male manager sexually harassed a female employee in the same work group at an office Christmas party. The complainant informed the Human Resource Manager about the incident. The employer wanted to avoid the matter escalating and contacted Carolyn Manning Consulting Services. Mediation was agreed upon by both parties and the mediation was successful. An apology was forthcoming and a positive shift occurred in the relationship between the two parties. An action plan was formulated to address a number of issues arising from the incident including staff training re: harassment and equal opportunity matters, implementation of support strategies for staff involved in the incident and management coaching. Follow up revealed a shift in the workplace culture and a durable working relationship between the parties concerned.