The Maverick Mediator. I am an independent, ACAS accredited mediator. I can guarantee the complete confidentiality of the process of mediation. This creates the necessary trust and confidence amongst participants, which is crucial for a successful mediation.
The challenge for internal mediators in an organisation is that they are not necessarily seen as objective, impartial, neutral, and fair. The spectre of breaches of confidentiality, which is a crucial element of mediation, is overwhelming for participants. Invariably, HR professionals are regarded as ‘part of the management’ and therefore struggle to achieve the necessary credibility.
In my direct experience, many of the parties with whom I mediate, have become traumatised by the impact of the workplace conflict.
Successful mediation can have a therapeutic and cathartic effect on people who have endured bullying, denigration, and professional and personal disrespect. The power of mediation is that those involved in the process can describe the human and professional impact on themselves of errant behaviours, directly to those who have caused this.
The participants, begin to form a team that formulate agreed outcomes to resolve these issues. In essence, they have ownership of the behaviours required for the cohesive, inclusive, future benefit of all participants.
This is a Win, Win.
Alternative processes, such as Grievances, Misconduct and Tribunals result in someone else determining their future. This is a Win, Lose or Lose, Lose. (For example, someone may resign from the organisation and their future contribution is lost).
A recent Case Study of the Maverick Mediator
Over the course of two years, a culture of disrespect, exclusionary language, and open conflict between several the senior staff had developed in an organisation.
This spilt over into professional meetings with other organisations. Morale amongst their respective teams suffered. Several people resigned. Some of the senior people considered their position was becoming untenable and informed their managers of their intention to resign if no positive change was forthcoming.
Their quality of personal life was heavily compromised.
Working together, with my facilitation, the participants agreed on a Written Agreement that addressed all their concerns and created their blueprint for a positive, cooperative future.
Feedback from the participants and the Managing Director of the organisation was positive.
Mediation is a stressful experience for participants.
The norm in the mediation process is for the participant(s) and mediator to meet for the first time in the formal, individual meeting. This is where the participant is supposed to trust in the mediator and discuss the issues fully.
I recognised that this is a big ask.
I reverted to my police experience, including as a detective, and a member of the Professional Standards Department. In a highly stressful situation, it is essential that the person I am going to be ‘interviewing ‘develops trust and confidence in my impartiality, neutrality, fairness, and objectivity.
Therefore as an ACAS accredited mediator I introduced my unique, ‘icebreaker’ stage.
Further perspective on the mediation process
It is of critical importance that participants meet with me individually, and informally before we meet for our formal individual meeting. I call this phase, the ‘Icebreaker Meeting.
The purpose is to enable participants to ask questions of me, as a person, and professional mediator, to establish their trust and confidence in my necessary fairness, objectivity, neutrality, and impartiality.
Most significantly, I can ascertain any previous experience of processes that are called ‘mediation’ but bear no resemblance to the ACAS Model. In a communicative manner, we are able to eradicate the negative, deep -seated trauma of interventions that have been incorrectly described as mediation.
There is no discussion of the matters subject of the mediation at this phase.
This ensures that when I meet with participants for their formal, individual meeting (where they can be supported by a friend or staff association representative), we are not meeting as strangers. The feedback that I receive from participants is that my unique, additional ‘Icebreaker’ phase, relaxes participants and better enables them to discuss their concerns honestly and openly with me.
I also describe the ACAS Model of Mediation. This is invaluable, because participants may have had previous experience of alternative processes, described as ‘mediation ‘ which are not authentic.
The subsequent Joint Meeting consists of empowered participants, who are positively disposed to describe their concerns and work together for a positive outcome that represents all their interests.
This is formulated into a Written Agreement. This describes how the participants wish to conduct themselves, moving forward. It is a document that is confidential to the group. However, they can decide to share this document with nominated persons, as they feel appropriate.
I am honoured by those organisations and participant that put their faith in me to work together, to deliver successful outcomes, that benefit the individuals, the team, and the organisation.
The financial cost of workplace conflict in the UK
ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) is the foremost authority on workplace conflict in the UK.
Their 2021 Report ‘Estimating the costs of workplace conflict’ estimates that in the year, 2018/19 9.7 million employees experienced conflict.
The annual costs to employers identified in the report include.
- £11.9 billion from resignations
- £10.5 billion from disciplinary dismissals
- £2.2 billion from sickness absence
In my direct experience, the quality of leadership in an organisation is pervasive and determines the culture.
Leadership is knowing ourselves and those we are responsible for as people and behaving accordingly.
Such a culture is predisposed to awareness of ‘people issues’ and more likely to result in an appropriate, early intervention to examine, mitigate their impact, and resolve them, wherever possible.
Conclusion from the Maverick Mediator
I believe that mediation is the best way to resolve conflict.
- Why people should seriously consider mediation
Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process, that enables participants to devise and develop their own solutions to existing concerns, in a cooperative and inclusive manner.
This produces an increased likelihood of sustainable outcomes.
- Why mediation is my preferred method in Conflict Resolution
Alternative forms of Conflict Resolution, such as Arbitration, Grievance Procedures, Disciplinary Processes, or Employment Tribunals are essentially Win/Lose and the outcomes are determined by other people.
Mediation is Win, Win as the outcomes are determined by the participants in the process. Successful mediations are positive for the culture of the organisation and its Brand Reputation.
The damaging implications of Absence through stress, Presenteeism and Resignation are all ameliorated by a successful mediation.
The Brand Reputation of the organisation is also enhanced because of the positive culture that is evidenced by a successful mediation.