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Mediation to Transform Workplace Relationships

Mediation is gaining favor with organizations and employees. Employers find that early resolution of conflict increases productivity and lowers costs. Employees like the ability to be heard and to see change in their worklife.

What is mediation? Mediation is a voluntary process that gives persons in conflict or disagreement the ability to resolve their problems directly and confidentially. The mediator, a neutral third party, helps the parties communicate more clearly, resolve differences and reach an agreement that meets the needs of all parties. Specifically, the mediator assists the parties in listening and talking to each other, gaining clarity on options and possibilities, and possibly gaining a better understanding of each other's view. Most often, parties create an agreement that resolves the dispute as the parties define. Confidentiality is the heart of mediation and an agreement is written only if it all the parties agree.

Who is the mediator? Mediators are skilled in listening, providing clarity, improving understanding, facilitation, and group process. They are neutral parties with no vested interest in the outcome of your dispute. Mediators keep all information discussed in mediation confidential. Mediation sessions include one mediator or, at times, two mediators. Working Dynamics mediators have significant mediation experience, advanced mediation training as well as education in a related field, and mediator certification with the Supreme Court of Virginia.

How does mediation work? Participants have full opportunity to speak about the dispute or work relationship, as they see it. All parties have an opportunity to speak. The mediator listens carefully to what each participant has to say, asks questions, and assists them in coming to decisions about how to handle their situation. The mediator does not make decisions for the participants, does not tell them what to do, and is never an advocate for either party. If the participants reach a mutual agreement, the mediator helps create an agreement that satisfies everyone's interests and is clear, workable and balanced.

How much time is required? Mediation often can be accomplished in one session, but it can extend to multiple sessions. For the initial session, participants are asked to free their morning (or afternoon) schedules in order to give the mediation every chance to be successful. The choice to conclude the mediation in one session or to create a schedule of successive half-day sessions is made by the participants with the approval of the employing organization.

What is expected of participants in mediation? Each participant is expected to be open and honest as he or she shares information, to communicate in good faith, and to respect the private nature and confidentiality of the discussion.

What can you expect from the mediator? The mediator will show all parties respect, be fair, and treat information from the mediation as confidential. The mediator will not evaluate any claims or charges, give an opinion, or make decisions for the parties. The mediator will not willingly testify for or against either party in the event of future grievance proceeding or litigation.

Who will know about what happens in the mediation? Mediation is a confidential process. Before the mediation begins, all parties must agree to treat the discussion in mediation as private and confidential and sign a consent form to that effect. The mediator will agree that everything said or done in mediation sessions is confidential (except for references to harm to self or others) and may not be used in any subsequent judicial or administrative proceeding. Participants may choose to reach a written agreement, and may not. If a written agreement is reached, a designated individual* will review the points of agreement to ensure that it is consistent with the employer's policies and procedures. The parties in mediation and the "designated individual" will have a copy of the agreement. The agreement will not be placed in the employee's personnel file unless the employee requests it (or unless another arrangement has been discussed prior to the start of mediation). Any other distribution of the agreement will be discussed and agreed upon prior to the start of the mediation process.

* The designated individual is usually a staff person in the organization with employee relations' responsibilities or human resource oversight. This person will be identified and agreed upon prior to starting mediation.

If parties reach an agreement, who will know about it and who will have the agreement? Those present in the mediation and the designated individual in the organization will know about the agreement. Each of the participants will have a copy of the agreement. If parties agree in writing, the agreement may also be subject to confidentiality. If a party has sought legal representation, his or her attorney can be present during the mediation process to provide advice to the party and to review the agreement, and/or each party can take additional time to review the agreement with an attorney before signing. It is possible for a mediation having to do with a work relationship to not include matters of legal significance. However, it is impossible to judge beforehand if that will be the case. Therefore, mediators certified by the Supreme Court of Virginia will make you aware of the following information:
  • The mediator does not provide legal advice.
  • Any mediated agreement may affect the legal rights of the parties.
  • Each party to the mediation has the opportunity to consult with independent legal counsel at any time and is encouraged to do so.
  • Each party to the mediation should have any draft agreement reviewed by independent counsel prior to signing the agreement.
Is there a guarantee that mediation participants will reach an agreement? There is no way to guarantee that participants will reach a formal agreement through mediation. Parties may choose to reach a written agreement, or may not. Other outcomes, such as reaching a better understanding of each other's point of view, are possible and vital to a satisfying and productive working relationship.

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Richmond VA 23227
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