At the end of a successful workplace mediation, the parties are happy, smiling and feeling a great sense of relief. So much has been resolved. Some parties are even saying they’re looking forward to having coffee together again!
And then something happens. Days or weeks later, one of the parties informs the HR manager or supervisor “there’s a problem again, I thought we had this resolved, but it’s happening again.”
It seems the parties’ recollections of the mediation are different, and some of the parties are now challenging the items – often details – agreed to at the mediation. This is a disappointing turn of events and parties’ emotions run high at the thought of being bound by an agreement they don’t like.
The trick for an HR manager or supervisor who has helped resolve a conflict is to prevent this scenario from happening after your intervention. Here are a few pointers that you as HR Manager or supervisor can use to help prevent this from happening:
- At the outset, be sure that all parties agree on a clear statement of the problem(s) to be resolved; allow enough time to hear all of the scenarios or problems that are of concern, to avoid something being missed
- Also be clear about what the parties want to accomplish; identify the common objectives of the parties in simple language
- Be sure to brainstorm options without conditions or qualifiers, and without judgment (dissent or criticism), initially
- Spend time reviewing each option in detail, encourage the parties to imagine how each option would play out in the workplace; in a respectful manner flush out all the advantages and disadvantages of each option
- Connect each option to the parties’ common objectives; to be useful later, an option must support a common objective
- Before concluding, spend time with the parties writing down the intended agreement, including concrete examples of how the chosen option or outcome will work, and how the parties involved will be impacted – the more examples the better
- Arrange a follow-up with the participants to ensure that the agreement is working; this should happen within a few days or a week of the intervention
Remember, resolving a workplace conflict is influenced by the corporate culture, or flavour of the workplace environment. Workplace conflicts are unique as they usually blend personal and corporate concerns and interests. There’s a lot of room for misunderstanding. The best way to be sure that all parties finish well is to ensure there is a clear and concrete understanding of the solutions agreed to, along with a timely and meaningful follow-up by the HR manager or supervisor who has been involved.
Guest blogger Susan Smith is a Civil Roster mediator who focuses her practice on helping workplaces effectively manage high conflict disputes through coaching and mediation. She also specializes in providing online mediation. Find out more about Susan’s busy Vancouver practice at susansmithmediation.com.