Imagine that you are the project manager for a major, multi-department enterprise. You have made amazing progress, but tension is developing between two team members, and what you previously ascribed to healthy rivalry now seems to be a full-blown personality conflict.
You were first inclined to disregard the issue in the hope that it would resolve itself. But now your two team members aren’t communicating, and you’re concerned that if you don’t interfere, the situation might compromise the project’s success. Trusted Mediators here to help.
Workplaces in the twenty-first century are complex, since they are composed of people from diverse backgrounds with varying concepts, beliefs, and expectations. Given the growing need on employees to do more with less resources, it is not surprising that workplace disagreements may emerge.
The good news is that there are other dispute resolution methods, including mediation. In this article, we’ll study this method, discuss when to use it, and provide a detailed roadmap to resolving team issues.
What Is Mediation Exactly?
A neutral third party supports team members in settling their issues via the mediation process. The goal is to resolve workplace disagreements before they become destructive. In contrast to disciplinary and grievance procedures, its approach is more relaxed and adaptable.
Others may prefer to use official, external mediators in a disagreement, especially if it is large or complex.
The capacity to mediate may be a useful skill for managers to have, despite the fact that serious conflicts within teams are probably rare and the vast majority of employees will likely handle any disagreements with maturity. It may help them to confidently and effectively handle more entrenched disagreements within their teams when they arise.
When and how to use mediation
You may use mediation at any point during a dispute, provided that both parties agree and postpone any ongoing official actions.
In general, mediation is most beneficial when a problem first arises, since the longer a disagreement persists, the greater the possibility that relationships will worsen and people may make formal complaints. However, the approach may also be used to re-establish connections after formal dispute settlement procedures.
Mediation may be used to mediate disputes amongst members of the same team or between employees with various levels of seniority. Particularly useful when interpersonal communication has broken down.
Despite this, it is not always the optimal course of action. For example, incidents of bullying and harassment may have significant ramifications for the offenders, such as official warnings, termination, or even criminal proceedings, while the alleged victim may feel too vulnerable to participate fully. In these situations, you will certainly need to take a more formal approach; you should seek counsel from your organization’s human resources department.
The Benefits of a Casual Approach
Formal disagreements are time-consuming, expensive, and harmful to the relationships within a team. They may result in increased stress for all parties, a reduction in morale, a rise in absenteeism, and employee turnover. There is evidence that people who select mediation are more satisfied with the outcome than those who file a formal complaint. 
A further significant benefit of mediation is that it enables management to respond to disputes more quickly. Its secrecy encourages participants to be candid and direct, allowing them to get to the heart of the situation. This may boost their chances of maintaining effective relationships and permanently eliminating problems.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Mediation
In a dispute resolution conversation, mediators serve as an intermediate and facilitator. They help them find a mutually agreeable resolution and avoid being distracted or embroiled in dispute.
It is crucial that they abstain from arguing for or determining the subject themselves, and instead urge others to come to their own conclusion. However, they must offer a fair conclusion that safeguards against any imbalance of power between the parties.
Use the following six steps to mediate effectively:
- Establish Engagement Procedures
First, meet with each participant individually to explain what they may expect from you and the procedure. Ensure that all parties are willing to participate in the mediation; coercion will not work!
Establish some ground principles for the upcoming procedural phase. These may include asking each person to present prepared responses or thoughts, having an open mind, and avoiding interruptions. It is crucial that you create rapport with both parties and make them feel comfortable enough to discuss openly and honestly with you and with one another.
Tip: Unless both parties opt to share their actions and comments with others, mediation is a private process for all parties involved. Be sure to often remind participants of this to ensure that they comprehend and adhere to the method.
2.Engage Each Individual in an Open and Honest Dialogue
Find a peaceful, neutral space apart from the rest of the squad where you won’t be disturbed. Individual encounters with the participants will allow them to give you their side of the story freely and accurately. Use attentive listening and open-ended questions to get to the root of the matter. Reflect on and paraphrase what your teammates say to indicate that you understand their points of view.
Use your emotional intelligence to uncover the underlying cause of the argument, and examine each individual’s body language to get a better knowledge of their emotional condition.
Prepare yourself to encounter a variety of extreme emotions, including dread, anxiety, fury, and even revenge. Avoid suppressing these opinions, since this may be the first time that your team members have articulated the full impact of the conflict, which will likely offer you with essential insight into its origin.
Then, ask each participant what they want to accomplish via mediation. Remind them that the goal is not to win, but rather to find a reasonable solution that benefits all parties.
Tip: You may want to provide some time between individual and group sessions so that each participant may reflect on the talk they had with you and reconsider their position.
- Analyse the Problems Collectively
Schedule a meeting when both sides have had time to consider. Commence on a positive note by appreciating their desire to settle the disagreement. Then, identify the key areas of agreement and dispute.
Explore each issue progressively and encourage individuals to express their emotions. Ensure that each individual gets an equal amount of time to talk and that they are able to express themselves freely and without interruption. If they get defensive or combative, look for ways to refocus the conversation on the topic at hand. Encourage youngsters to empathise with one another and to ask questions to deepen their understanding of one another’s point of view.
Tip 1: Make sure there is a nearby empty room where people may go if the discourse turns stale or heated. You may also opt to speak with each person separately to advance the discussion. Regardless, your ultimate objective is to reunite them!
Tip 2: Working remotely may facilitate the mediation process by allowing the parties to choose an environment in which they feel comfortable and by avoiding the potential of one party feeling uncomfortable in the actual presence of the other.
Before commencing, choose a platform, remind participants that the process is confidential, and urge them not to record the meeting or take screenshots.
- Negotiation and Compromise
After both sides have shared their perspectives, they should shift their attention from the past to the future.
Examine the issues discussed in your meetings and look for areas where they share at least some opinions. Resolve these issues first, since a “quick win” will help build momentum and boost both sides’ confidence that a sensible resolution can be achieved.
Request that participants produce ideas and promote win-win negotiating so that a satisfying conclusion may be reached. Ask the proponent of an absurd notion what he considers reasonable and if he feels the other party would agree.
- Establish a Contract in Writing
Take notes during all of the sessions in which you act as a mediator, and record the parties’ agreement in writing after it has been reached. Ensure the agreement is clear and SMART steps are implemented (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).
Verify that your language is neutral, free of jargon, and comprehensible by everybody to avoid misunderstandings and further conflict. Both parties should reread the agreement to ensure that they fully understand what is expected of them and to clarify any parts that are confusing, too broad, or imprecise.
You may even consider requiring everyone to sign the agreement. This may provide the outcome with weight and finality and increase their sense of responsibility. Nonetheless, mediation is meant to be a somewhat informal process, and undue force might undermine this.
Tip: Consider that mediation may not always end in an agreement, despite the mediator’s best efforts. In such situations, you would likely need to use a more formal approach.
- Get Some Closure
The time has arrived to conclude the mediation. Distribute copies of the agreed-upon statement to the participants and outline what is expected of them upon their return to the workplace.
Together, plan how to overcome obstacles to the agreement’s execution and investigate options for doing so. Recap the next steps, assure both parties of your continued support as a mediator, and express thanks for their aid and cooperation.
Tip: Consider doing an informal follow-up with the participants at a later date to confirm that they are honouring their promise.
Mediation skills may be used in your personal life as well as your professional life. Consider use active listening, open inquiry, contemplation, and paraphrasing the next time you see increasing tensions amongst friends or family members. Encourage them to discuss their issues collectively, and offer to join the discussion to help them find a solution.
Mediation is often a more successful tactic than formal measures for resolving workplace problems. Especially if problems are handled as soon as they arise, it may help to develop trust and team connections.
It must be done by a manager or another team member in whom both sides have complete confidence to be objective, neutral, and non-judgmental.
However, mediation is improper when more serious issues are involved, such as bullying or harassment. If so, you will need to stick to a more official method, with HR’s assistance and direction.
Begin the mediation by listening to each person’s story separately. Next, place them in direct contact with one another. Allow them equal time to speak and explain their viewpoints. Once both parties have agreed upon a solution that is mutually beneficial, outline the agreement.
Specify the steps that each member must do and the anticipated outcomes.