Peer Mediation

Mediation can often go awry if the mediator is seen as either biased, as occupying a position of power that is not trusted, or as so removed from the concerns and context of the disputants as to be ill-equipped to be of any real help. In such circumstances, recourse to what is called "peer mediation" may be an attractive alternative to more conventional mediation formats.

This may be the best option in many educational contexts, especially in schools in which the prospective conventional mediator is a powerful administrative authority figure, e.g., principal, headmaster or teacher, viewed as likely to have an administration-biased agenda.

In a corporate context, a union shop steward, as a peer, is likely to be seen as "one of us". However, since the shop steward can mediate only on behalf of one party to a given dispute, (s)he is not a purely neutral peer mediator. In many instances, such as union negotiations with management, it may be difficult to find a mediator regarded as a peer by both sides. However, when disputes are between employees, peer mediation by another employee may be worth considering.
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Primarily utilized by schools, but applicable in business settings, peer mediation is an intervention strategy based on negotiation. It teaches disputants and mediators how to resolve conflict within their peer groups using alternative strategies. Trained as conflict managers, participants in peer mediation assist their peers in dispute settlement, by applying strategies of problem solving. An attempt is made to solve the problem in an amicable manner that is satisfactory to all parties. These strategies help prevent minor incidents from growing into greater issues.

Peer mediation teaches students alternative methods and skills to apply in conflict situations. Organizations that have effective peer mediation programs teach their members alternative , constructive ways of solving personal problems and resolving conflicts of an interpersonal nature, by avoiding overreaction, including, in the extreme case, violence. The training teaches the mediators that conflicts can have a positive aspect apart from the bad; that conflict can be both positive and constructive. It imparts to them an understanding of the role of the mediators as not being judgmental or forcing a solution or an agreement.

Gradually, participants learn to undertake mediation voluntarily. At that point, they are guided by peer mediators to refrain from blaming each other and to work towards a solution acceptable to both parties.

Some organizations, especially schools, have a mediation office, where a formal program addresses all types of mediation. However, in a corporate context, merely having a peer mediation program may suffice for management of peer-to-peer conflicts and disputes.