Mediation & New Technology: Does it Help or Hinder?

Posted on: July 9th, 2019

Over the past twenty years, we’ve worked with conflicts in workplaces, neighbourhoods, committees, charities, and in commercial settings, and have seen first-hand how much of it has been directly caused or exacerbated by technology… especially when it comes to social media!

In this article, we’ll be looking at how technology can make disputes worse, but also how it can potentially provide additional opportunities for resolution.

So, to begin with, lets look at how technology can actually initiate or worsen disputes:

We’ve found these factors particularly common in neighbourhood disputes, or in conflicts between families, where parties will have access to each other’s social media.

However, that’s not to say that they’re not prevalent in workplace disputes either, where office gossip and drama can also spill over on to Facebook or Instagram!

And, of course, besides the spiralling dispute affecting morale and productivity, it can also have some other undesirable side-effects.

For example, it could lead to increased social media usage at work as the dispute remains on their mind or, commercially, it could also reflect badly on the company. Fights between employees could become public and available for everyone to see, or private opinion might not be distinguished from their work. This is often why many organisations ask employees to put disclaimers into their social media bios, usually something along the lines of, “Opinions are my own and not the views of my employer”.

However, in recent years, we have seen a surge of mediation providers harnessing technology to provide further opportunities for conflict resolution. This includes using Skype, webchats, Zoom, using AI or, in some extreme cases, using robots!

And, while it’s great that mediation is more accessible to people in dispute, we must ask… do these methods actually work?

And, to break the answer down into two parts, YES if…

On the other hand, we would advise NO if…

So, weighing up the above pros and cons, our final advice would be that it entirely depends on the dispute.

Of course, it’s great when mediation, which has proven to be a successful method of conflict resolution, becomes more available and accessible.

However, it does also need to be appropriate in order to provide the parties with the best possible service in order to re-open communication, rebuild dialogue, and move forward with an agreement to improve the relationship.

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