Are there ongoing disputes in your workplace? Is that unresolved conflict impacting on the vibe of the whole office?

If there is a problem, the only way it is going to get better is if someone takes some action; if you actually talk about it. And the best way to help is get someone independent in to help address the issues.

Mediation is a structured process where the mediator facilitates a conversation between two or more parties to help them resolve an ongoing dispute. Or as I like to say – mediation is having a difficult conversation with a safety net. The mediator doesn’t decide who is right or wrong; they help the parties work through the issues to resolve the problem themselves and the whole process is confidential.

So when should you seek out a mediator? Here are some examples:

  1. You’ve tried to resolve the problem yourselves but it didn’t work out

There are often problems that just don’t seem to go away despite the best effort of management. Sometimes it takes an outside person with no emotional attachment to the dispute to help everyone see the forest for the trees (that they couldn’t see before).

  1. When a staff member takes stress leave because of unresolved conflict

The situation has gone beyond a workplace dispute when one of the parties to that dispute goes on stress leave. This is a situation that might result in a WorkCover claim. This is a great time to see whether the situation can be turned around with the help of a mediator.

  1. Straight after a big “blow up” incident between two or more staff members that needs immediate attention

Tempers are flared, people have said things they wouldn’t normally say, the elephant in the room may have been named. The situation has the potential to become explosive and damaging for the whole workplace. The staff needs to see that management is caring, responsive and responsible. Call a mediator.

  1. When there has been an allegation of bullying or harassment against a staff member

Management need to demonstrate to the rest of their workforce that they will not tolerate bullying or harassment; they also need to demonstrate that they are not taking sides. Getting a mediator in ensures that everyone knows that this situation is being taken seriously but it also respects that there are two sides to any story and gives both parties an opportunity to get stuff off their chest.

  1. When a complaint is made against a manager

It’s too close to management for someone from within management to be able to resolve this issue. How can they be seen to be even-handed when one of their own is under attack? Best to protect the integrity of the organisation and call in an independent mediator to work with the parties.

These disputes deserve to be taken seriously. Getting someone in to resolve the issues from outside the organisation demonstrates that not only you care about your staff but more importantly that you provide a safe working environment.

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