WorkPeace: Prepare to Finish Well

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.

Susan Smith
Susan Smith

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

Photo by Japheth Mast on Unsplash

5 Podcasts for Mediators this Winter Break

I am a bit of a podcast junkie. I currently subscribe to more podcasts than I can listen to in an average week. This means I always look forward to time when I can catch up!

Reading this I imagine you scratching your head thinking what is a podcast? and what has this got to do with mediation? Well, a podcast is a series of web-distributed audio (or video) files to portable media players (like an iPhone). Basically, they’re like radio show episodes you can download and play when you want.

They are an excellent way to choose content and access a great deal of material that will encourage reflective practice and offer helpful tools. It is easy to find a number of podcasts that use different formats (narrative, interview/dialogue, monologue) to suit your listening preference. Podcasts also have their own communities that engage in further discussion on social media as well.

It’s never been easier to access thought provoking content! Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Music (or through any fine podcast app).

To change things up from the winter break reading lists we see this time of year, I offer you a listening list.

Top 5 Podcasts for Mediators

Here are my top 5 podcast recommendations for mediators to listen to over the winter break (and subscribe to for future episodes):

5. The Turnaround!

The Turnaround!Interviewers, interviewed. The Turnaround is a new show about our greatest living interviewers, hosted by Jesse Thorn and produced by Maximum Fun and Columbia Journalism Review. Featuring conversations with prominent interviewers about their careers and their craft, the show is a perfect resource for a new generation of storytellers and journalists. You’ll hear Jesse speak with Larry King, Terry Gross, Werner Herzog, Audie Cornish, and so many more!

Want to learn more about interviewing and asking effective questions? This is the podcast for you. Jesse Thorn chats with some amazing interviewers about how they interview. It’s a great way to spend some time reflecting on how we as mediators engage with clients and go about asking all sorts of questions, and the different ways they prepare. A great opportunity to peek behind the curtain.
Episodes are about 60mins+.

Get a taste of The Turnaround:
Brooke Gladstone


4. Overthinking Conflict

Overthinking ConflictExploring the business, skills and styles of peacemaking. Our goals are to have interesting conversations, delve into the hard edges of conflict resolution and support developing practitioners like ourselves.

Each week, Overthinking Conflict explores a different aspect of peacemaking. Overall, there is a great deal of variety in the interviewees and breadth to their approaches and contexts to peacemaking. The hosts have different worldviews and approaches to their peacemaking practices which makes the conversations with guests all the more enjoyable and accessible.  Alright, full disclosure time. I co-host this podcast with Amanda Semenoff.
Episodes are about 25mins.

Get a taste of Overthinking Conflict:
Curiosity for Better Holidays with Kathy Taberner and Kirsten Taberner Siggins


3. Invisibilia

InvisibiliaInvisibilia (Latin for invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Co-hosted by Hanna Rosin, Alix Spiegel, and Lulu Miller, Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.

I love how Invisibilia links scientific research and storytelling. It really makes for some engaged listening and a way to learn more about human behaviour. Many of the topics explored are particularly relevant to conflict resolution: fear, emotions, culture, perception and more. A bonus is that the stories translate well to retelling with clients to encourage self-reflection.
Episodes are about 60mins.

Get a taste of Invisibilia:
Frame of Reference

2. The Space Between

The Space Between with Dr. Tammy LenskiThe Space Between is about getting better results from your most difficult and important conversations. Award-winning mediator, executive coach, and conflict resolution teacher Dr. Tammy Lenski shares practical strategies for resolving conflict and tension in high-priority relationships at work and home.

Tammy offers up short and highly useful tools in her podcast that are easy to work into your own practice. Each episode breaks down a tool or concept to make it easy to integrate into your own toolbox. She also couches the episodes in personal and relatable stories. If you are looking for specific skills and tools, this is definitely the podcast for you.
Episodes are about 5-10mins.

Get a taste of The Space Between:
The question that ends hamster wheel debates


1. Hidden Brain

Hidden BrainA conversation about life’s unseen patterns. Hosted by social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam, Hidden Brain links research from psychology and neurobiology with findings from economics, anthropology, and sociology, among other fields. The goal of Hidden Brain isn’t merely to entertain, but to give you insights to apply at work, at home and throughout your life.

The storytelling is well crafted and sensitive with social science research woven in to support and sometimes challenge our expected reactions to a story. Social science research is made not only accessible, but thoroughly understandable. The occasional stopwatch science segments is a fun, rapid-fire presentation of research on certain topics between host Shankar Vedantam and author Dan Pink. Each episode will inform and entertain.

The topics do range a fair bit, however this is probably the podcast that encourages me to reflect  on my own practice and what is happening for those in conflict the most.
Episodes are about 40-60mins.

Get a taste of Hidden Brain:
Tunnel Vision

Are you already an avid podcast fan? What shows are in your feed?
Share them in the comments below!

I hope you find a podcast of interest in this short list. Part of the fun is exploring and finding new podcasts that speak to you. Happy listening!

C.D. SaintC.D. Saint is a Sr. Coordinator with Mediate BC’s Roster Program where he promotes mediation and helps facilitate new conversations within the conflict resolution community around processes, roles and more. He co-hosts the Overthinking Conflict podcast, mediates and volunteers with the North Shore Restorative Justice Society.

Photo by Alphacolor 13 on Unsplash

Standing Up, Standing Out:
Show Up, Follow Through

Welcome back, if you’re joining us again from last week and if you’re just tuning in now and haven’t read Part I and II of this series, I strongly recommend that you click here and here to do that before going on.

Last week we talked about how your professional brand is a natural extension of the personal. This week we’re concluding by discussing how and where you can leverage your brand and how you can check in to see if your efforts are paying off.

We’ve looked at how to develop a strong brand, but a strong brand isn’t worth much if it isn’t out and about, getting you the clients you want and the work you enjoy. There are many ways to share your brand with the world – you get to decide which ones will work best for you.

Brand Pillar Three
Ready to Launch!

Once you’re clear on your personal and professional brand, you need to give some consideration to where you want to express it and how. Even though we’ve talked about starting with you, minimizing cognitive dissonance and helping people see you clearly, you still get to decide how much you get to share and where.

This is especially important in today’s overly connected world. It’s tough to maintain credibility as a level-headed mediator if you tend to comment loudly and profanely on Facebook posts or Twitter. People can and will Google you. This doesn’t mean you should hide your personality online or off, but it does mean you need to raise your awareness of how things might be perceived by others.

Here’s what to consider for building this pillar, through the lens of your personal and professional brand:

  • Where do you want to be seen, online and off? Think of where your best clients, resources and support sources might be found. Find ways to get there, whether through networking, online posts or social avenues.
  • How do you want to show up? Before you go, think about how you’ll be when you get there. How is your brand getting reflected in all that you do? Is it consistent with who you are?
  • How much do you want to share? If you’re a more private person, then you will naturally want to be a bit more reserved online and off. If you’re quite open, then you’ll share more freely. However, you’ll want to consider the effects of both. Too private and it will be hard for people to relate to your humanity. Too open and it will be hard for people to relate to your expertise.

Ideally the way you show up will be matched to your brand. For example, if you’re a quiet and sensible person, show that in the places you’ve chosen to go. You might spend time listening and say only one or two things to someone who seems interesting. Your comments on social media are likely to be thoughtful. Your website will be full of useful content but likely not flashy. Cliché it might be, but keeping it real works.

Brand Pillar Four
Systems Check

The last and arguably most significant pillar once you get into space is the systems check. When it comes to brand, we’re always operating with incomplete information; we’ve usually got a pretty good idea internally of how we’re feeling about what we’re doing, but the only way to be sure of how well your brand is working for sure is to get external feedback.

Whatever information you get, incorporate it and adjust when and if necessary. Sometimes that means adjusting your brand expression and sometimes it means adjusting your environment, but keep adjusting. As much as we love to get things finished, brand is an evolving thing, rarely static for more than a year or two before shifts need to be made.

Here are the things to consider for getting checked in:

  • Do you feel good about how you look and how you’re showing up?
  • Are people responding well when you meet them?
  • Is having an aligned brand leading you to more work and better connections?

For many people, seeking out external feedback can be tricky, so we’ll finish with some important safety tips.

First, remember to consider the source and choose carefully. You won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, so sometimes no adjustments need to be made, if you’re good with the first and third points above.

Second, if the response isn’t good and you think it should be, check back to see if how you’re showing up is appropriate for the audience in addition to being appropriate for you.  Sometimes people err on the side of individualization and fail to fully consider the impact of their environment.

Third, remember that response is a subjective thing and only you can define the response you’d like to get. For example, if you’re a challenger then the desired response might be for people to get mad at you and go away. Think carefully about the kind of response you want your brand to get.

The feelings you have internally and the response you’re getting externally should match up. If you feel capable and confident and are getting treated as someone who is those things, then great. If that’s not happening, refer to pillars one two and three.

Happy Branding!

Have a thought? Agree? Disagree? Let us know, comment below!

Katherine Lazaruk

Katherine Lazaruk, AICI, CIC is an image and professional branding consultant in Vancouver. In addition to being the force behind ICU Image Consulting, she is a sessional instructor in the Image Consulting Program for Langara College and serves as Secretary for the Canada Chapter Board of AICI.