Agency & Business Services
Is mediation different in a business context?
Mediation is a process of alternative dispute resolution, either voluntary or court ordered. In the case of work environments, it is generally voluntary. The mediator's role is that of a neutral third party, a facilitator who provides structure, ground rules, and guidance. The goal is an agreement that respects the needs of both parties, while taking into account the needs of the agency or business (which may be different than those of either party.) Mediation is NOT arbitration, and is not binding, but a mutual resolution of conflicts or differences.
Who is involved or informed?
Generally in agency or business settings, disputes arise between management and other employees, among employees, or between management and owners or stockholders. Relevant parties, or their representatives, are involved directly in the mediation process, but the mediator reserves the right to consult other parties who are less central but may be impacted by the dispute or the resolution. If attorneys are involved, they, too, are consulted.
During the course of a mediation process, the mediator often requests to meet with parties separately, as well as together.
How is mediation structured?
Generally there is an initial meeting to explain the process and get some general sense of interests, positions and goals. This may be followed by separate meetings to build agendas. Then comes the negotiation sequence, which may be conducted jointly or separately based on the degree of intensity of the parties involved.
While feelings are attended to, this is not a therapeutic process. The goal is to generate fair and workable solutions.
Rules include no demeaning language or threatening gestures. Interruptions and non-constructive responses will be addressed directly. A solution focus is encouraged.
When are we done?
Resolution depends on ability of parties to negotiate and compromise. Mediation can conclude with complete agreement, partial agreement, or impasse. As mediators, we take notes and prepare, in writing, any agreements that are reached. Each party has the opportunity to independently review such agreements. A mediator may be called on to renegotiate an issue or additional dispute at a future date.
How is mediation different from consultation?
When agencies or businesses are stressed, regardless of cause (i.e. expansion, downsizing, competition, economic constraints, etc.), the relationships of co-workers, or management and staff, are impacted. Rather than a few clearly defined areas of disagreement, there instead exist issues of poor communication, low morale, rumors, power struggles, etc. There are often concrete interventions that can address such issues, and practical solutions to shared dissatisfactions. When doing a consultation, we might, for example, observe a staff meeting, interview a variety of individual employees, talk with management, get an accurate history of the evolution of the organization, observe day-to-day workings. We then provide a written report with specific suggestions for change. If requested, we present our findings to staff, management or a board of directors. Rather than a process where a known and obvious dispute is resolved, it is one in which, after doing all of the above, we suggest what the underlying issues and conflicts appear to be, and offer practical interventions to address them.
Do you facilitate agency or business retreats?
Facilitation is different from mediation. Rather than having a few specific, concrete differences to resolve, a retreat provides a time and place (ideally away from the workplace itself) where all members of an agency or business can participate in: 1) stating concerns, 2) labeling problems, 3) addressing strengths, 4) defining goals, 5) thinking creatively and openly about options and solution, 6) developing a plan that specifies those behavioral objectives that will build towards stated goals.
There are, however, limitations to a retreat, especially if there is no opportunity for management and workers to meet separately and to feel free to address concerns and frustrations without anxiety about repercussions. A one-day retreat is an excellent first step in resolving agency or business workplace issues, but it rarely results in long-term solutions without focus and consistent follow-up.