In many organisations, mediation plays only a limited part, and is done as an activity to resolve a specific conflict.
But mediation is more than a specific process. It’s also a set of tools designed to help people let go of their anger and pain and arrive at win-win outcomes; and it’s a collection of values and beliefs which determine how we go about responding to conflict.
And some organisations ‘get’ this, and have used mediation in its wider sense. Let’s have a look at some.
Mediation as a preventative tool
The ER Team at Hampshire Fire and Rescue developed, wiht CMP, a programme of bespoke learning for their managers at all levels – from leading fire fighter to chief officer. This focussed on mediation tools/skills, and the underpinning mindset, and the goal was that managers would stop escalating disputes up the management line, or out to ER. The learning is now part of their core leadership training. Fewer disputes escalate, managers feel more confident about managing awkward situations and team strife, and staff feel more listened to and valued.
Mediation as a support for HR
Cambridge University has a mediation service, but was aware that their HR team still regularly got involved in trying to sort out conflict. CMP ran courses for the HR team, focussing on conflict management and mediation skills. The HR officers didn’t need to learn how to mediate – they had trained mediators for that. But they did want to improve how they worked with upset, complaining employees so that they could use their conflict experience to learn about themselves. The HR staff now understand when to refer to mediation, how to adopt a mediation mind-set to conflict, and how to use mediation-type skills to respond to distressed employees and to move them towards win-win outcomes.
Mediation as part of turning around a conflict culture
The FCO was aware that it took a long time to manage grievances, complaints and disputes, and that many situations escalated quickly and then needed to be addressed by formal process. They set up a team of Dispute Resolution Specialists to play the leading role in reducing the cost of conflict at the FCO and improving the effectiveness of their dispute resolution and conflict management processes. CMP worked in partnership with the FCO to design and deliver a unique 8-day course which trained the same people to act as Harassment Advisors, Mediators, and Investigators. By understanding the continuum of dispute resolution options in this way, and having an integrated process, fewer disputes now go to formal investigation as they are resolved by mediation first. The Dispute resolution specialists are also able to advise and support managers to turn the conflict culture at the FCO around.
Go beyond mediation
NHS Grampian were convinced by CMP’s Close, Manage, Prevent model. To prevent conflict they developed a course with CMP which they roll out of with their inhouse trainers, that enhances mediation-style skills such as enhanced listening, win/win problem-solving, self awareness around conflict issues, and moving from argument to dialogue. An internal mediation service has been set up to manage conflicts that could not be handled locally. They ran a communication programme to promote the values and processes for constructive conflict management. NHS Grampian also close formal complaints better, using an improved investigation process and practice after training from CMP. Serious escalated conflicts are down, staff confidence is growing and slowly but surely a more joined-up cost-effective approach to conflict is emerging.
So don’t just think ‘mediators’ or ‘mediation service’ when you want to get the best from mediation. To get the mose of mediation, think of it as:
- A set of skills
- An approach to people and their conflicts
- A process for arriving at win-win outcomes.