The Manager as a Mediator

Scott McIver Articles

The benefits of workplace mediation are now no small secret to organisations.

Not only does it avoid the costs, delay, and stress of formal processes like grievances and tribunals, it has a great track-record of repairing employee relationships and getting your team working together again.

At UK Mediation, we are practising workplace mediators, working with businesses big and small from a wide range of sectors. We help to resolve ongoing conflict, as well as training up existing staff to deal with disputes internally.

Offering a variety of different options, from one-day courses to accredited five-day courses, we can also tailor the training to our clients’ every need. Whether you’re just looking to gain an understanding, or have a bank of internal mediators trained up, our market-leading trainers are on-hand to help.

However, one training request we often receive in enquiries is to clarify when it should be used by the manager or supervisor, and when it perhaps isn’t as appropriate.

Mediation works best in the early stages of a dispute, heading it off before it becomes too much of an issue in the surrounding environment, or too deeply entrenched.

For example, many large workplaces might see an abundance of “tittle-tattling” and low-level fallouts, which the employer will want to get resolved sooner rather than later. In some cases, they may not be dealing with these correctly – either jumping to grievances too quickly, or not dealing with them at all!

In instances like these, organisations turn to mediation so that they don’t have to be unnecessarily dealt with by upper management. Instead, they can be dealt with effectively by an immediate manager, team leader or supervisor. This can be more efficient, both in terms of time and cost.

Of course, this is not to say that mediation should be used for every single dispute. In fact, we often get asked about “over-application” of mediation, which can be almost as damaging as not using it at all.

On past occasions, we have heard of very serious situations being dealt with via a “quiet word”, when disciplinary action would have been far more appropriate. It must be pointed out that workplace mediation does not replace disciplinary procedures and protocols, but rather acts as an alternative to be readily considered.

Here are some situations in which mediation perhaps shouldn’t be used:

As a first resort for minor disputes, instead of the informal quiet word
• To replace good management skills and responsibilities – do not hide behind mediation!
• When a decision about right or wrong is needed, including legal issues
• When there is a threat, or history, of violence, particularly if bringing them together would put any of the participants at risk in any way
• If one of the participants has learning difficulties that impairs decision-making
• If the participants have made it clear that they don’t want to take part in this voluntary process

While these conditions may seem restrictive at first, it is all about balance of use, and knowing when and when not to use mediation. At the end of the day, it is still effective and applicable in the vast majority of conflicts and disputes (whilst also boasting a success rate of 80-90%1!)

For these reasons, we have developed our ‘Manager as a Mediator’ in-house training course, designed for managers, team leaders and HR professionals.

It draws on a collection of the skills used by mediators, coaches, and counsellors: giving the manager a thorough insight into the psychology of conflict, whilst also building confidence and competence in putting mediation skills to practical use straight away.

These can then be used to handle workplace conflicts better, to nip disputes in the bud, and to prevent escalation into costly and time-consuming formal processes.

Find out more about our in-house training options, including the ‘Manager as a Mediator‘ course
Train to become an accredited mediator with our Interpersonal Mediation Practitioner’s Certificate
Book your free place on our upcoming mediation showcases
Sign up to our free monthly webinars, including ‘Becoming A Workplace Mediator

1 UK: Mediation: Success Or Failure?‘, Mondaq, 2017