Group mediation – Why it’s not safe to use unexperienced mediators

We’ve all been there: thinking we can do something well enough ourselves, we don’t need the experts. We imaging we’ll save money, and time. And sometimes, if we’re lucky and know ourselves very well indeed, it’s true.

But not with mediation.

The problem is that untrained mediators ‘having a go’ may not simply make things better, but will very probably make things worse. People coming on mediation training courses are often amazed at how little they really understood mediation, even though they thought that they did. They realise by the end of Day 5 why training to mediate takes days and days of learning, practice and coaching. In short, they become consciously incompetent – a very different state from the unconscious incompetence they joined the course with. We’ve been exposed to many cases where we are told ‘oh, we’ve already tried mediation”.

What this tends to mean is that a manager has banged a few heads together or sat people down and told them to ‘behave like adults’, and has labelled this intervention as mediation. While there is obviously a place for managers to speak to individuals to attempt to resolve issues at the lowest level, mediation is a distinct informal resolution.

Group conflicts, with all their cross-currents and personalities, the multitude of differing interests and needs, are almost impossible to mediate well without not only training, but solid experience of ‘basic’ mediation between two parties.

In this paper we’ll look at why group mediation is different.