There are numerous statistics on the high costs of workplace conflict to organisations, due in no small part to the significant costs of what one could term ‘formal’ interventions being used. By this, we mean rights-based interventions such as investigations and other litigious processes such as the Employment Appeals Tribunal.
Tackling workplace conflict
In an absence of procedures which take a more interest-based approach, conflicts end up getting channeled down this expensive, time-consuming and not often very helpful route. An interest-based approach is one where the parties are facilitated to focus on how best they can have their concerns and needs mutually satisfied as opposed to defending positional stances.
Mediation is one such process and nowadays more and more organisations are starting to make this available as a means of resolving disputes. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development cite the strong business case for mediation as well as other benefits such as improved relationships between employees and reduced levels of workplace stress. A recent CIPD report (2013) highlighted a level of 82.8% of public sector employers reporting that they use mediation.
How to make mediation more mainstream
So how might organisations go about making mediation more mainstream and increase the level of understanding and use of this very effective tool?
Establishing a panel of internal mediators to resolve disputes as they arise is an increasing recent trend in this area. For example, the Health Services Executive has a very well developed internal mediation panel here in Ireland.
In terms of the private sector, the well-known high street retailer Topshop in the UK cite savings of £80,000 with an internal mediation programme. Advantages of having an internal mediation service are that it can be more immediate and certainly more cost effective than bringing in an external mediation provider.
But aside from this, establishing an internal mediation programme also has the potential to set in motion a culture change in how an organisation deals with disputes. It introduces to the organisation in a very concrete way a ‘mediation mind-set’ which can have positive consequences far beyond getting Mary and Tom’s dispute resolved. It means in a core cadre of staff understand, practice and champion an approach that promotes and models constructive listening and problem-solving. This can only have positive ripple effects for both the formal and informal culture in the organisation.
Want to take some formal training in applying the Mediation Process and Skills: Click here for our Mediation Skills workshops for Managers and HR Managers