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When two people cannot resolve a disagreement for themselves, they need a third person to get involved. And in the escalation from a friendly nudge up to the judicial system, mediation is the first formal step.

And, since conflict is common in organisations, it’s as well to understand what mediation can and cannot offer, when to use it, and how to make it effective.

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Clowns to the Left of Me, Jokers to the Right

Okay, so that’s no way to talk about your colleagues – although it does sometimes feel that way.  But the next line and the title of the 1974 Stealers Wheel song is ’stuck in the middle with you.’

Go on – click on the link – you know you want to waste four minutes and hear the song – just for old times’ sake!


Stuck in the Middle

The Latin word, mediare – to be in the middle – gives us our word mediate, which is a process of intervening between two parties to resolve a dispute.  More and more organisations are turning to mediators to help resolve internal disputes before moving to disciplinary or legal sanctions.

How does Mediation work?

There is a very thorough description of the mediation process on the website of the Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies (the catchily named OxCHEPS).  However, for most purposes, the process can be split into six steps, which form the basics of the process.  Different mediators and different contexts mean that there are a range of variations on this theme.

Step 1: Mediator meets person A (usually the person who has declared the grievance) and listens carefully to their point of view.  Mediator confirms with A that they are prepared to meet B.

Step 2: Mediator meets person B (in some cases the meeting starts with an agreement to pursue mediation – in others, that agreement will already have been given) and listens carefully to their point of view.  Mediator confirms with B that they are prepared to meet A.

Assuming both people have agreed to meet…

Photo: Steps in the Woods by Time Green Step 3: Mediator meets person A to share information and plan the meeting.

Step 4: Mediator meets person B to share information and plan the meeting.

Step 5: The mediator facilitates a meeting between A and B, at which they each listen to the other as they express their point of view.  The mediator ensures that all issues are shared and that each is listened to with care.  The mediator then helps A and B to explore their issues, and start to create an agreement.  When A and B reach an agreement, the mediator will document it and ask A and B to each sign the agreement and the mediator will witness it.

Step 6: In many cases, the mediator will agree a follow-up role, to monitor how the agreement is working.

The Discipline & Grievance Pocketbook


The Discipline & Grievance Pocketbook has pragmatic information about this trickiest of workplace topics, from a seasoned HR professional, Ruth Sangale.  With mini case studies, checklists and standard letters, plus a handy set of step by step processes at the end, this is a must have for all managers and a handy reference for HR practitioners.

Whilst Ruth does not describe mediation in detail, she refers you to a free booklet from ACAS and the CIPD;‘Mediation – an Employer’s Guide’, which you can download by clicking on the link.

Other Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

The Absence Management Pocketbook

The Induction Pocketbook

The Flexible Workplace Pocketbook

The Tackling Difficult Conversations Pocketbook

The Mediation Pocketbook

The Performance Management Pocketbook

The Employment Law Pocketbook

The Competencies Pocketbook

The Problem Behaviour Pocketbook

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