management and mediation
B. Harwi and George Reath, Jr.
published by the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, January
business, conflict is a costly management problem. Mediation
is increasingly seen as an effective tool in conflict resolution.
is a form of negotiation facilitated by a neutral who has
no authority to impose a solution. The neutral is not a factfinder
or faultfinder. Mediation is not a forum for winning or losing
but rather a process for problem solving and moving forward.
is a confidential process in which the parties control the
resolution. Only they decide when they have reached agreement.
When using the services of an experienced, trained mediator,
the process is effective, timely and far less costly than
litigation or arbitration.
is particularly effective in the context of disputes between
employers and employees and in disputes involving current
or past relationships. It is not soft and fuzzy as some may
think. In the hands of a trained neutral the disputants will
focus intensely on their interests and needs as they confront
A classic example of mediation, as distinguished
from litigation and arbitration may be helpful.
siblings are fighting over ownership of an orange. Each claims
and Arbitration - Their parent, a fact finder, upon
hearing the siblings' demands and bases for ownership,
cuts the orange in half and gives a half to each. Both
siblings leave dissatisfied.
Mediation - The siblings select a mediator to facilitate
their negotiations. With the mediator's coaxing the siblings
learn that one needs the pulp to make orange juice and
the other needs the skin for a recipe. Each is satisfied.
Mediation has enormous potential in the employment
context as seen in these examples.
The United States Postal Service has implemented an early
mediation program for employment discrimination claims in
which the employee voluntarily submits the claim to mediation.
The mediation is seen as an opportunity for open, honest
and respectful exchange in hopes of bringing about closure.
The employee does not forfeit any rights by going to mediation.
mediation occurs during the employee's regular shift and
the employee is paid while attending the mediation. The mediator
is an independent contractor retained by the Postal Service
to work in these disputes. There is no obligation to reach
The statistics are compelling considering that
the USPS has thousands of EEO claims each year. Eighty-six
percent of the claims which are submitted to this USPS
program are resolved before the employee files a formal
complaint, or just disappear. More than 90% of the employees
and managers who have been involved in the REDRESS process
view the process favorably. The cost of one of these mediations,
USPS estimates, is $1,500-$2,000 versus $20,000-$35,000
if the matter goes through an administrative process or
the pressure to reach settlement the stakes of the mediation
are lowered but closure occurs with tremendous frequency.
The process permits manager and employee the dignity of resolving
differences themselves. The result is not only closure but
also an improved workplace environment at a minimal cost.
manager of hardware cannot get along with your manager of
software. Both employees are valuable. The managers agree
to try to mediate their dispute. You then contact a professional
mediator to work with the two employees.
mediator contacts each employee and begins the process of
building trust. He provides them with information about the
mediation. The mediator explains that the process is confidential.
He also commits to file no report with the company even though
the company is paying his fee.
mediator explains that he is a neutral who is there to help
the employees develop their solution to their problem.
He will help the employees talk to and listen to each other.
He explains that the mediation may involve several sessions,
which will provide the employees an opportunity to reflect
upon the proceedings.
process starts with each employee discussing issues and concerns
with the mediator. This allows the employee to articulate
and organize her perceptions of the conflict prior to the
first get together.
employees then meet with the mediator. After an initial security
dance, the employees find themselves beginning to express
thoughts and feelings in the mediation that they had not
previously considered discussing with each other. The forum
provided by the mediator allows them to do this. Several
more sessions are held and the employees begin to develop
a new modus operandi. They can talk to each other
more comfortably and address issues constructively. Although
no formal agreement has been reached, the mediation is a
Mediation Services Inc. 2002