When is Workplace Mediation Needed?

When is Workplace Mediation Needed?

The majority of workplace conflict is interpersonal conflict arising from miscommunication, misunderstanding and inappropriate behaviours. In some cases, but not all, workplace mediation may be required to resolve the conflict.

There will always be some type of conflict in the workplace because our communication skills are not always effective and constructive, we tend to misunderstand each other’s actions and intentions and sometimes behaviours are not appropriate for the workplace.

Professional respect makes the difference

However, not all conflict requires mediation to be resolved.  Where two parties have previously had a reasonably strong workplace relationship built on positive interactions, the sharing of both personal and professional information and a good level of understanding and trust in each other, they can usually quickly address the misunderstanding by themselves and resolve the conflict effectively and early.

But not all workplace conflict can be so easily and quickly addressed. This is usually when two or more people have not enjoyed a good workplace relationship in the past and don’t have professional respect for each other. In these situations, these people allow their emotions to dictate their actions and at least one or both of the people will escalate the conflict sometimes into very public displays of inappropriate behaviour or deny that the conflict exists which escalates the behaviour in different ways.

Either way, their actions identify that they have removed themselves from the responsibility to resolve the conflict and they want to rely on a third person to do so for them. This is precisely when workplace mediation is required. A third person is required to help these two people communicate effectively with each other without the emotion involved.

Who should mediate workplace conflict?

Unfortunately, if an internal person is appointed as the mediator they may not have an interest in resolving somebody else’s issues or perhaps they don’t have the skills or time to do so. They may not see the resolution of the conflict as necessary or urgent and usually it is hoped that the people will eventually work it out for themselves or the matter might just disappear and no longer be an issue.

Considering in-house mediation? That might make things worse. Share on X

But we all know that unresolved conflict creates distress not only for the people directly involved but for their colleagues and managers too. Trust erodes quickly, individual and team productivity decreases, gossip and ill will increases, patterns of absenteeism become noticeable and the risk of a bullying or workers compensation claim becomes a reality.

Where conflict has been left unresolved, or there is a power imbalance between the parties, or one or more parties display aggressive or difficult behaviours, mediation should occur but with an externally appointed, accredited mediator. This is because the conflict situation has become very complex. Not only are there aspects of fact that have been misinterpreted but there is also a lack of trust. An external, advanced, accredited mediator should have a good understanding of neuroscience in how to help the parties develop past their entrenched positions and the mediator should be skilled at managing the multiple complexities of the situation.

If you need to engage an external, accredited mediator here is how you can contact us.

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About the Author

Catherine Gillespie brings a wealth of skill to her clients. With particular expertise in teaching communication and workplace conflict resolution skills, Catherine has made a marked difference to the organisations she has worked with. She empowers teams and managers to adopt constructive styles that support harmony, productivity and progress in the workplace.