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Get people to say yes to mediation, using nudge

Many complaints which would and should be resolved by mediation never get there.  Often, because parties stick to the known choice of formal processes. Try some of these “nudges” to shift people, gently, away from the idea that litigation is the natural choice!

  • Abandon the term ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)

Using “Alternative” to describe mediation relegates it to a secondary place.  “Alternative” means not normal or typical – and creates a picture of something  untested, unproven, and rather ‘wacky’.  Use the term early dispute resolution, to describe its position in the continuum of dispute resolution options.

  • Replace the concepts and terms ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ in grievance procedures

Mediation is generally located under the ‘informal’ section of a grievance policy, yet potential users respond positively to the connotations which ‘formal’ has of being serious, credible, legitimate and powerful, and reject the connotations of an ‘informal’ process as being casual, relaxed, and ‘soft’.  Renaming the processes available within a grievance procedure as ‘resolution options’, or ‘resolution pathways’ will identify each option by what it is, and the circumstances in which each is best used.

  • Position mediation where it can be easily seen, and build up familiarity and expectations

Mention mediation in all the procedures which touch on people’s rights and responsibilities: grievance and disciplinary, dignity (or fairness) at work, performance management, customer complaints, health and safety, sickness absence, corporate and social responsibility, recruitment and retention.

  • Select ‘trigger’ times to remind people of mediation

Including a reminder of mediation in the performance management cycle, during a restructure or period of intense change.  During such times,  disseminate relevant narratives of what mediation is and its benefits, in internal newsletters, at management briefings, on intranets, and in on company briefings.

  • Ask about mediation  in staff surveys

Just asking a question about potential usage can increase uptake. People who respond to a survey indicating they would do something, are then more inclined to do it if the opportunity arises. Include a regular question in staff surveys, engagement surveys, bullying and harassment surveys – Would you ever consider using mediation? If so, why? If not, why not? This will generate useful information to help understand motivation and resistance around mediation.

A simple tool to measure the cost of workplace conflict will enable any organisation to see the lost productivity caused by workplace conflict, and can calculate the cost benefit of mediation and effective dispute resolution. This will generate tangible and local evidence showing the value of choosing mediation.

  • Positioning mediation awareness and knowledge in managerial competencies

This is a nudge which has already been used successfully in some sectors when dispute resolution and conflict management skills and competencies are introduced to core competencies. As a minimum all managers need to know enough about mediation to talk any prospective party through the process and talk about its benefits. At the top end mediation skills are proving to be a huge asset to senior managers in changing times.

  • Model mediation values and behaviours at senior level

A consistent message coming from the highest levels advocating mediation would have a powerful impact.