Different groups of people can be involved in disputes because conflicts are caused by the diversity of opinions, visions, interests, and needs. If those people who work together to complete the project cannot understand the needs, motives, and interests of each other in relation to achieving the common goal, the work can result not only in the failure but also in developed confrontation between the parties. That is why, it is rational and appropriate to involve the third party in discussing the issue in order to assist in resolving the conflict.
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This process of assisting in the resolution of the dispute observed in a workplace, a family, or a social group is known as mediation. From this point, mediation is the complex method used to resolve disputes as a result of helping the parties to find the right solution for their conflict (Moore 2003). Mediation techniques and methods serve effectively to resolve the workplace disputes because these techniques and approaches are selected according to the concrete situation and in relation to the expected outcomes.
Thus, the role of mediation in the workplace is significant because effective mediation contributes not only to resolving the current dispute but also to preventing conflicts in the future because the balance of powers is regulated by mediators, and employees receive the opportunity to improve their communication and collaboration.
Theories of Mediation
Mediation can be discussed from the point of its theoretical significance and practical role for resolving the conflicts. Thus, the theory of mediation is based on the purpose, principles, and role of mediation as the method of the dispute resolution. The development of the idea of mediation and its theory is a result of the people’s focus on finding the resolution for all the conflicting situations in order to keep the balance (Beer, Packard, & Stief 2013).
It is important to note that mediation theories depend on strong links between the psychological, linguistic, and psychoanalytic theories in order to provide the fundament for the process of mediation as the establishment of the peaceful atmosphere between the parties who are different in their characteristics, visions, intentions, and desires (Cloke 2001).
According to Moore, “because of the presence of conflict and because of the physical, emotional, and resource costs that often result from disputes, people have always sought ways of peacefully resolving their differences” (Moore 2003, p. 3).
Furthermore, Moore states that in seeking to manage conflicts, people also “have tried to develop procedures that are efficient; that satisfy their interests; that build or maintain relationships, where appropriate; that minimise suffering; and that control unnecessary expenditures of resources” (Moore 2003, p. 3). The principles of the mediation theory respond to these people’s needs because the main purpose of mediation is to help persons to find the decision or resolution for the conflict situation.
From this point, mediators often do not provide the concrete solution, but they direct the parties’ decision-making process in order to guarantee that the resolution can meet interests of all the involved parities (Cloke 2001).
That is why, theories and models of mediation are oriented to assisting the persons to find the most effective and appropriate solutions in order to minimise costs and sufferings and to increase benefits (Beer, Packard, & Stief 2013). In this case, a mediator remains to be impartial and objective in order to analyse the situation in detail.
The Application of the Underpinning Meditation Theories to the Workplace Context
The underpinning mediation theories can be effectively applied to the workplace context as the specific context for using the approaches and techniques of mediation in practice.
When people work at the project as a team they often have diverse opinions on the process’s development, and the necessity to conclude about the definite decision can lead to conflicts because of differences in visions. Furthermore, the conflicts can be observed between managers and employees taking the lower positions. The more complicated form of the workplace conflict is often associated with the discrimination and harassment, and it results in legal implications.
However, the mentioned types of conflicts can be resolved with references to the underpinning mediation theories according to which the conflicting parties should present their ideas and visions related to the problem, develop the honest communication, discuss all the possible variants of resolution, analyse all the pros and cons with and without references to the subjective interests, and to decide with references to recommendations proposed by the mediators as the third party (Roberts 2007).
Thus, Cloke states that “in workplace mediations, labour and management come together to discuss, own, and solve problems, rather than blame them on each other” (Cloke 2001, p. 155).
In this case, the focus on the cooperation, trust, honesty, agreement, and respect as the main principles of mediation can serve to resolve the workplace conflicts (Beer, Packard, & Stief 2013). The whole mediation process can be developed during several minutes of several months, depending on the problem and used techniques. Thus, mediation in the workplace is necessary to establish and maintain the positive cooperative atmosphere.
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Various Mediation Approaches and Techniques and Their Practical Application
Mediators use the variety of approaches and techniques in order to resolve the conflict and to propose the new path for analysing the conflict situation.
Researchers distinguish between ‘outcome-driven’ and ‘process-driven’ approaches as well as between joint problem-solving approaches, shuttle techniques, eclectic approaches and models, different types of interviews, and mixed approaches (Beer, Packard, & Stief 2013; Cloke 2001; Roberts 2007). From this perspective, there is a range of techniques operated by mediators in different situations. In many cases, mediators choose to combine the techniques in order to achieve the greater results.
‘Outcome-driven’ and ‘process-driven’ approaches differ significantly because mediators focus on assisting to find the right solution with the help of ‘outcome-driven’ approaches, and they help conflicting parties to understand the nature of their conflict with the help of ‘process-driven’ approaches which are effective for predicting the further conflicts (Roberts 2007).
‘Outcome-driven’ and ‘process-driven’ approaches are effective to be applied during different stages of the conflict’s development because, for instance, ‘process-driven’ approaches are not effective at the conflict peak.
Mediators can also choose between joint meetings, separate meetings, and caucus meetings. Joint meetings are effective to resolve the conflict in the workplace when the parties do not discuss themselves as ‘enemies’, and their cooperation is still possible (Roberts 2007).
Separate meetings and interviews are effective when the parties ceased communication with each other, the conflict is at its peak, and the honest communication is the challenging task, thus, the conflict can become a threat to the company’s work (Cloke 2001). Caucus meetings are effective when it is necessary to promote confidence and provide encouragement, for instance, the employees can feel frustrated because of their work’s results, and this situation led to the conflict (Roberts 2007).
Shuttle mediation, as the idea to ‘shuttle’ between the parties located in separate rooms is also effective for analysing the highly problematic conflicts where it is impossible to rely on the parties’ honesty (Moore 2003; Roberts 2007). Eclectic approaches as the variants of mixed models can be applied to practice when the conflict develops between different groups of employees and between several teams because the approach oriented to multiple outcomes is necessary (Roberts 2007).
The Mediation Process as the Model
The complex mediation process can be presented as the model, which includes several important stages that lead to resolving the conflict and to avoiding the potential damages for the company.
The first stage is the pre-mediation session during which mediators collect the information about the parties with the help of interviews and other techniques and perform the necessary data analysis. This is the stage of the pre-mediation screening, and it is also associated with creating the positive, safe, and comfortable environment for the parties who should become ready to the honest communication (Roberts 2007, p. 48).
The next component of the model is the focus on formalities “such as setting ground rules, discussing confidentiality, explaining process, and completing forms” (Cloke 2001, p. 114). Mediators should present the information about the specifics of the mediation process, provide the important guidelines, and ensure that the party’s confidentiality is respected.
It is important to note that the ideas of impartiality in relation to mediators and confidentiality in relation to the parties are the main principles of the mediation process (Roberts 2007).
Differences in introductions and explanations of the mediation principles depend on the techniques and approaches determined to be used as a result of the pre-mediation screening. Thus, if a mediator selected to rely on the shuttle technique, the role of confidentiality and rules related to taking notes and using them in different rooms increases significantly.
Storytelling is the specific stage of the mediation process when a mediator receives the information about the parties’ visions, ideas, opinions related to the conflict with references to the person’s story. It is necessary to create the calm environment and provide the teller with the opportunities to present the story in detail without interruption. In this case, separate meetings and interviews are more effective approaches to receive the necessary information (Cloke 2001, p. 183).
On the contrary, if storytelling is observed during the caucus meeting or during the joint session, it is necessary to encourage not only the honest storytelling but also listening because the parties need to hear each other in order to understand differences in their positions which led to the conflict. It is important to note that following different techniques, mediators can demonstrate the different levels of involvement into the guiding process.
The next stage is framing, and a mediator’s task is to focus on collaboration and to analyse the stories told by the parties. Framing is necessary in order to provide a mediator with the opportunity to conclude about the conflict and determine the paths for the dispute resolution.
It is necessary to state that the conflict should not prevent the company from the further development, and it is more important to focus on the future goals. At this stage, the mediator objectively analyses the stories and opinions told by the parties and provide them with the opportunities to see the situation form the new perspective (Moore 2003).
Framing is the stage when the first results of the mediator’s guidance can be observed clearly. It is important to lead the process of analysing the conflict situation to the collaboration between the parties with the help of promoting the mutual understanding. The changes in the parties’ visions of the conflict and perceptions of themselves are often based on the honest communication between the parties and supported with the ideas of trust and empathy.
Focusing on the collaboration and active interaction, the parties are ready to develop the solution to the conflict situation because all the positions are discussed and explained clearly (Beer, Packard, & Stief 2013). Mediators should not provide the concrete solution for the dispute, but the parties are expected to reach the workable solution with references to their effective decision-making process, which is guided by the mediator.
The focus on the final solution leads to writing the agreement which should be followed strictly as the way to resolve the certain conflict (Cloke 2001). In spite of the fact that development of the solution is not the mediator’s responsibility, the mediator should provide the necessary assistance at the stage of developing and writing the effective agreement which satisfies the needs and interests of all the parties.
Various Models of Mediation and Their Use in Different Settings
Despite the fact that the process of mediation is based on one general model, it is possible to determine various models of mediation which differ in the used techniques and approaches and which can be applied to different situations and settings. It is possible to determine the facilitative, evaluative or directive, and transformational models of mediation which are effective in resolving many workplace conflicts (Cloke 2001, p. 11).
The facilitative model of mediation is used in many cases because it is often based on the approach of joint meetings, and the mediator’s role is in evaluating the causes of the conflict and identifying the paths for its resolution without influencing the parties’ decision directly. The facilitative model is used in the workplace in order to contribute to the development of team-building, leadership, and collaboration skills because of providing the employees with a lot of freedom to resolve their dispute.
According to Cloke, the evaluative or directive model of mediation “regards conflict as something to be ended, the parties as incapable of ending their conflicts by themselves”, but the role of the mediator is more active because the mediator not only guides the discussion of the conflict but also directs the collaboration basing on the detailed evaluation (Cloke 2001, p. 11).
This model is effective to be applied to the settings which can be discussed as diverse in relation to race, ethnicity, culture, gender, and age because these conflicts based on these differences are difficult to be resolved effectively.
In the transformational model, “the mediator typically facilitates and does not suggest solutions or direct the parties toward resolution”, but the parties are expected to change their perceptions of the situation significantly in order to become oriented to the goals (Cloke 2001, p. 11). This model is effective in the settings of the successful companies where the groups of people are concentrated on promoting and supporting their diverse opinions, ideas, and expectations.
The Benefits of Mediation to Relevant Stakeholders
The use of mediation techniques can be discussed as the beneficial decision because mediation contributes to resolving the conflicts and avoiding the potential damages for the companies. Thus, mediation in the workplace is the important method to resolve the critical situation and to overcome possible risks.
The costs associated with mediation are often lower than the costs associated with the conflict results (Moore 2003). From this point, the benefits of mediation for such stakeholders as employees are in contributing to the future cooperation and for the employers are in avoiding the financial and corporate failures caused by the development of unresolved conflicts.
According to Roberts, “the process benefits include the potential for an improved capacity in the parties to negotiate directly together in the future without recourse to intermediaries” (Roberts 2007, p. 71). Mediators can work not only to resolve the dispute but also to evaluate the overall work of the company in relation to focusing on the common goals and sharing common values. As a result, mediation guarantees the long-term benefits.
The role of mediation in the workplace is important because mediators not only contribute to resolving disputes, which can have the dramatic effects on the organisations’ development but also improve the overall communication between employees and employers who can perform as the conflicting parties. The mediation process is based on the general model, which can be discussed as traditional, but there are also several models which can be used separately, depending on the nature of the conflict.
Furthermore, mediation is effective for resolving the conflicts of different levels because mediators operate various tools, techniques, and approaches which are selected to respond to the nature of the conflict and character of the parties’ communication. Thus, mediation is the effective method to resolve conflict and problematic situations.
Beer, J., Packard, C., & Stief, E. 2013, The mediator’s handbook, New Society Publishers, Canada.
Cloke, K. 2001, Mediating dangerously: The frontiers of conflict resolution, Jossey-Bass, San-Francisco.
Moore, C. 2003, The mediation process: Practical strategies for resolving conflict, Wiley, UK.
Roberts, M. 2007, Developing the craft of mediation: Reflections on theory and practice, Jessica Kingsley Pub., UK.