Mediation, and other interest-based interventions, are powerful tools for the human resource function to use in organizational settings.
Disputes are an unavoidable and integral part of the work environment. One of the key responsibilities of human resources in any organization is assisting all parts of the organization maximize the value of their human resources - the people - in the organization. Without the ability to offer effective help in resolving workplace conflict while maintaining and building trust with all affected individuals, the HR function is not fulfilling its role.
Mediation, the most common interest-based conflict resolution process, is a powerful tool that can be used in a variety of situations, including:
- when conflict arises between staff, especially if the dispute has not fractured the relationship beyond repair
- harassment (or even sexual harassment) complaints, especially early in the process before the relationship or the workplace has become poisoned
- poisoned work environments (see our "Organizational Intervention" button for more information on this)
- performance issues with key employees
- grievance mediation, and other union/management issues
The benefits of mediation in these situations are many, including:
- focus the parties on their "interests", i.e. their wants, needs and concerns (rather than on their "rights") often encouraging a "win/win" outcome for everyone;
- when used properly, does not remove, curtail or ignore anyone's "rights" should a resolution not be achieved. In other words, there is little downside in using mediation;
- help parties communicate in a clear and genuine way, paving the way for long-term resolutions that help re-define relationships and prevent recurrence of the problem in the future;
- often gets to the root or true cause of the problem, rather than solving symptoms.
In addition, mediation is a uniquely flexible process that can be adapted and tailored to meet the needs of many different situations.
In many circumstances, it is possible to have trained "neutrals" available within the organization, usually human resource or employee relations professionals. When disputes would benefit from some outside third-party help, these internal neutrals can be available. While there certainly are important issues that need consideration when the mediator is an employee of the organization, these issues can be addressed and resolved through any good third-party neutral training (see our training button, "Mediation in the Organization").
In other situations, the mediator should be a neutral from outside the company. Often, this is when the process will be de-railed by any real or perceived bias from the mediator, or when the stakes of the dispute are relatively high. In both cases, however, mediation brings significant advantages to the parties attempting resolution.
Either way, as more and more organizations rely on teamwork, empowerment, and employee commitment to get results, the older adversarial approaches to managing employees will simply not work. New interest-based processes like mediation hold real promise in transforming the way conflict is managed and resolved in the workplace.
Morale In A Unit or Departments Is Low, Negatively Impacting Productivity
Our first step is to meet with the management team to get insight into the morale problem. During this stage we will be asking about the history of the unit, why they suspect there is a morale problem and what has been done address the concern to this point in time. We'll want to know if there have been any recent attitude or sensing surveys and if so what are these surveys telling us. We will also be interested in understanding the management and supervisory organizational structure. During the investigation we will be looking for areas of common concern or themes. We will not be reporting on individual employee issues. Throughout the investigation we will emphasize the need to respect the confidences of employees who share their views. Our reports will only identify issues of significant concern to the employees.
Together we will develop an investigation action plan including:
- Timing for our investigation
- Involvement of managers/supervisors
- Meeting with employees, in groups that make sense
- How meetings will be conducted - the operating principles
- Confidentiality agreement (no individual employee will be quoted)
- Reporting back; What reports will include - Who will see the reports and in what order
- When will the employees see the results of the meetings - Recommendations for an action plan to resolve issues
Investigation & Fact Finding with Recommendations:
For Allegations of Sexual Discrimination, Racial or Sexual Harassment
The investigation of an allegation of sexual or racial discrimination or harassment requires a thoughtful process and careful attention to detail. Agree's investigation process is responsive, thorough, and effective.
Before commencing the investigation, Agree will meet with the management team charged with responsibility for administering the policy(s) in question. Together with the team and its human resources and/or legal advisors, we will review the requirements of the policy and make specific recommendations as to how to proceed. We will also learn what steps have been taken already to resolve the issues at hand.
Agree then meets with the complainant(s) and respondent(s) separately as well as with any witnesses suggested by the parties. Careful notes are taken and the parties are asked to initial these notes to confirm the accuracy of the information contained in them. We review any documentation or other available evidence.
Once all evidence has been thoroughly canvassed, Agree will generate an Interim Report for comment by all parties to the investigation. The parties are provided with a short period of time to offer further evidence or to comment on the interim findings.
Once these comments have been received and any additional information reviewed, Agree will issue a Final Report with recommendations pursuant to applicable policy. These recommendations may include specific recommendations to resolve the immediate situation and may include general suggestions to improve either the process for resolution of complaints of this type or the working atmosphere in general.
If you want to bring a matter forward for mediation, simply call Agree and provide the particulars by phone.