Using Mediation to address employee disputes
Mediation is a facilitated discussion in which both parties can air their grievances in a structured and supported way with the aim of resolving the dispute and enabling the participants to work together positively. In a formal setting, such as an alternative to an Employment Tribunal, the mediator will listen to both sides of the debate and make a decision, to which both parties have to abide. In a workplace setting though, mediation is less formal, which enables the participants to reach their own solution to the problem.
Here at CHaRM we have been able to resolve a number of employee disputes (and disputes between manager and team member) amicably, with one of the CHaRM team acting as mediator and facilitating the conversation until agreement as to a way forward is reached. Groundrules have been agreed and an understanding of each parties' grievances has been gained prior to the facilitated discussion, which has helped structure the conversation so that honest debate can take place. In all cases the agreement reached by both parties has been kept to and has enabled them to continue to work together. Mediation is a good option to consider in situations where two people appear to no longer be able to work together. The team at CHaRM can help in these situations.
Our client had two employees who were suffering a breakdown in their employment relationship. One was a long serving employee, the other was fairly new to the business. The newer employee had caused some problems in how she dealt with existing employees. The longer serving employee consider the new employee to be dismissive, off-hand and patronising. The newer employee considered the other difficult to deal with and unapproachable. The two had clashed on several occasions and the employer was considering whether one of them would have to leave the business for the sake of everyone else who worked there. The warring parties were beginning to have a knock-on effect on morale with other employees taking sides.
It was at this point that we suggested a mediation process, facilitated by a member of the CHaRM team who could look at both sides and bring the parties together under sensitively controlled conditions. The purpose was to enable a constructive conversation to take place to see if their differences could be resolved. This was agreed and an initial individual meeting with each party was held to understand their position. Both parties then came to a joint facilitated meeting at which their differences were discussed under mediation guidelines. At the end of the process both parties agreed that the mediation process had helped to 'clear the air' and had enabled them to understand what pressures and problems their behaviour had caused.
The result? Both parties signed up to an action plan which was reviewed at three months by the mediator to see how they were getting on. They both agreed to share parts of the action plan with their managers so that there was a full understanding of the changes they wished to make and support provided. Training that had been identified was also actioned as a result. Crucially for the employer, further decisions regarding possible dismissal were avoided and wider morale and productivity issues were improved by the use of mediation.