In this blog, Becky outlines the difference between mediation and facilitation and when mediation can help.
By Becky Mee
When people talk about mediation, there’s a sinking feeling, a rolling of eyes and some knowing looks. You know things have got out of hand and it’s the equivalent of the referee stepping into the boxing ring in the 11th round. It can also be the last-ditch attempt to put things right before someone has to resign or potentially even worse, a different type of conversation is had.
It’s when a more structured conversation is needed to resolve a dispute and to prevent arbitration. It’s conducted by an independent third party, is voluntary and the aim is to help the disputing parties settle their disagreement. Mediation is without prejudice and can become legally binding depending on the outcome agreement.
Mediation’s cousin is facilitation and often the two get confused. Facilitation is when a third party needs to step in to help a conversation happen, making sure that all parties have a chance to put their points across and diffuse tension before the situation escalates further. It’s also voluntary and facilitation done well, can be a timely intervention before mediation is needed. Whilst it is confidential, it’s not legally binding.
So what type of situations can facilitation help with? A well-structured conversation can be helpful where:
All these conversations need to be structured and have ground rules, so all involved are aware of what is expected and how things will pan out. Confidentiality is key, as are being open, honest, willing to listen and open to new ideas.
So how can mediation help a situation? In the workplace it can be used to:
Being able to facilitate or mediate effectively is a skill, requiring an open mind, impartiality, patience and the ability to keep people on track. As impartiality is key, it’s often best if the facilitator or mediator is completely neutral and not involved in what has gone on before. This could mean bringing in someone from another department or someone external, such as a trained consultant or utilising ACAS’s services. All parties need to agree to ground rules before the session starts and be clear on both what the end goal could be, what ideally they would be willing to compromise on and how this could make the other parties involved feel.
There are a several quick wins here:
Facilitated and mediated conversations are powerful tools when used well. However, facilitated conversations, if part of the everyday fabric of work life can save a lot of time and effort in the long run, meaning mediation may never be required.
If you require mediation, we can help! Just get in touch with the team.
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