The mediation process need not be painful. If successfully executed, the process should bring about complete resolution to the issue at hand. However, especially in the case of employment and workplace issues, it’s important to manage expectations and continue strong rapport and trust. Employees have to continue to work together, so more than simply solving the problem, the HR professional or professional mediator must help repair relationships and build a solid foundation for the future.
Tips for the Mediator and the Parties
- Keep it positive: Begin all negotiations and the mediation process with an open mind. It helps to consider the fact of going through this process as inherently positive. Begin the process on a positive note by calling attention to the fact that all parties are working toward successful resolution.
- See the other side: Each party should try to put themselves in the other person’s shoes: try to see it their way, and pretend that you are negotiating for them. How does the other person see the situation? How do they view your actions? The mediator should routinely attempt to have both sides view the other perspective.
- Keep everything private: This should go without saying, but all mediation discussions should be kept absolutely private and be understand to be as such. The mediator must set this expectation at the beginning of the process and continue to reinforce that fact. Managed correctly, the parties feel that its a secure and comfortable environment.
- Admit mistakes: Both parties should admit their contributions to the problem. Strong and skilled mediators bring this out in people by continually asking questions like, “How do you think that makes XX feel?” and “When you XX, how did you think XX took that?” If managed properly, the discussions will feel genuine, conversational, and honest – not confrontational.
- Establish milestones: Your goal should be to come to resolution, but often a full resolution takes time. The actual process is more like a series of small decisions and agreements. Whenever there is agreement, a “milestone” of sorts should be recorded and then continually referenced in order to establish common ground.
- Keep Track: When establishing common ground and fulfilling research requests and tasks for the mediation process, it’s important to be extremely regimented about organization. It is not only important to keep detailed notes and stay on top of tasks for the sake of working through the process. Having employees working on the process together and completing tasks establishes trust and helps the process. As mediator, make sure that you assign tasks to the parties; follow up and emphasize successful task completion in order to promote goodwill.