How do you know when a dispute is right for mediation? Or that mediation is right for a certain dispute?
Marie sent in her good question last week. Whether or not mediation is useful depends more on the kind of resolution wanted than on the content of the dispute (with gratitude to Beer & Stief of the Friends Conflict Resolution Programs for the useful distinction). In other words, mediation can work regardless of the disagreement’s topic.
Here are some ways I find it most effective to gauge mediation’s usefulness to 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 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/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 sort of professional development tool in some organizations.
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 and whether the timing is right for mediation.
Do you have a question you’d like me to answer here or directly to you? I’d love to hear from you.