Mediation is one of the most effective forms of conflict resolution, especially in the working environment. Employment or workplace conflicts can occur between the colleagues at the same level, or between the junior and senior employees. There are several reasons for the conflicts in the workplace, and poor communication is among them. For instance, communication is a key factor for any successful organization, and the employees need to be informed when anything changes in the organization, for instance, the re-assignation of tasks. Different personalities, unhealthy competition at the workplace, and different values among the employees are other reasons for employment conflicts.
In their articles, Wall, Stark & Standifer (2001), Barkun (1964) and Beardsley (2006) guide the employees and managers on how to employ mediation as a conflict resolution measure. The three articles discuss extensively on the determinants of mediation. Namely, they explain why and how to use mediation effectively when solving a conflict at the workplace. First of all, one should evaluate the nature of the conflict, the environment, the reason for the conflict, the disputants’ characteristics, the attributes towards each other, and the mediators training on the conflict resolution. Then, one should evaluate his/her own skills in conflict resolution.
Such an approach of conflict solving at the workplace has proven to yield a good result and harmonized working environment for the conflicting parties. However, this does not rule out the other alternative methods of conflict resolution in the working environment. There are common behaviors that the disputants tend to adopt in quest for resolving the conflict among them. They include competing, because employees may compete with one another to win the approval of their employer. Although this does not fully resolve the conflict, it is very helpful, especially if the employer initiates this kind of competition, where the employees are awarded for when they perform exemplary. The given form of conflict resolution behavior will eventually result in a good progress of the organization since it works as a way of motivation practice in disguise.
Accommodating is another conflict resolution behavior of the disputants. It requires that employees accept their mistakes and easily cooperate with one another in their daily activities. Moreover, this is a very good way of solving the conflict because it ensures a good relationship among the employees and a good working environment at the workplace.
Employees may also regard avoiding one another as a way of solving the conflict between them. However, this only seems to be effective in the short term. They may be put in the same web designing team, for instance; under such condition, their meeting becomes inevitable. Nevertheless, this can be very effective if the conflict is between a junior and a senior worker. In such cases, a junior worker might decide to avoid the boss in order to fit the organization.
The articles mentioned above provide some mediation outcomes that are applicable in resolution of an employment conflict. Mediation provides the involvement of a third party in the conflict resolution. A mediator collects views from both parties and helps them come to a settlement. The parties themselves identify the conflict, and the mediator facilitates the communication between them, helping them to agree on a common ground. The agreement can be drafted, or it can also be a mutual agreement depending on the nature of the conflict.
One of the outcomes of mediation of an employment conflict is satisfaction. After the mediation process, the disputants come to an agreement themselves on how to settle their differences. Therefore, they are all satisfied and can go about their daily activities effectively. In addition, there is a perception of a fair treatment in the mediation outcome. The mediator does not adjudicate for any judgment since the mutual agreement is commonly reached by the conflicting parties. Therefore, their agreement is considered fair and reasonable.
Mediation helps in reducing any post-crisis tension. Once the conflict is resolved, it is assumed that the parties involved will resume a good working relationship. Contribution to crisis abatement is another mediation outcome that will greatly ensure the resolution of employment conflict.
Jane Smith works as a lawyer at a very prestigious law firm in New York City. She has been working at the firm for three years. She is usually very hardworking and competent in her work. According to one of the firm’s policies, if one has been working for three years and if his/her work is credible enough and profitable to the firm, he/she will be made a partner in the firm. With this in mind, Ms. Smith comes to work very early, is very neat and even does the paper work for the other partners in the hopes that they would recognize her effort. Her office partner, on the other hand, has been working in the firm for four years; however, he has not been made a partner yet. He is disorganized and comes to work late. Moreover, he is very rude towards the junior workers, like the secretaries. He even orders them around to do the simplest tasks for him, like serving tea. In addition to this, he tunes on the radio at his desk to a loud volume distracting Jane’s concentration.
Evidently, the two office partners cannot agree on a common ground. Thus, Jane decided to ignore him. He has been working in the firm for more years than her; thus, he should know the policies of the firm better. Jane, who is waiting for promotion, has decided to avoid confrontation with her co-worker. However, there was a big case assigned to her and she considered it as a breakthrough that will help her become a partner. The case was about drug trafficking, and one of the government officials, namely a senator, was involved. Jane at all means had to win the case. Unfortunately, the case was assigned to her together with her colleague. Therefore, she had to revise her method of resolving the conflict. Jane had to tolerate him, if she wanted to get that promotion. However, her colleague was uncooperative and had a very bad drinking habit. She was so frustrated that at one time had a fight with him after work. After this, there was no communication between them at all, which slowed the course of the case. Consequently, Jane lost the case and eventually, the conflict cost her partnership.
Avoidance and fights are the most common ways of resolving employment conflicts, but they are not always the best. If a mediator had stepped in, they could have resolved the conflict and probably won the case. Eventually, Jane could have been made a partner in the firm. The management of the firm is somehow to blame for assuming that employees can solve their own problems. The management should enhance their lines of formal and informal communication. There should also be a mediator, who is able to listen to the employees’ grievances. The mediator should enhance secrecy and cannot be called as a witness, if the matter becomes challenging.
Had the parties adopted mediation, it could have reaped very effective benefits, namely it could enhance the working relationship between the two. One of the benefits of mediation is that it is compliance-friendly. Since both parties agree on the settlement, the degree of a long term compliance is very high, which ensures that the conflict is non repetitive in the future. Mediation is confidential. Unlike the methods the parties had chosen to solve their conflict, namely avoidance and fight, where almost everyone in the firm knew what happened between them, mediation guards the privacy of the parties involved. Thus, a very few people if any would have known about the conflict.
Had the parties adapted this method of solving the conflict, they could have saved a lot of time. They could have also spent it concentrating on building up the case against the senator instead of focusing on some minor disputes between them. Starting a fight is very unethical, even though it was a heated argument. Fights lead to a win-lose situation and do not satisfy any of the parties. Mediation, on the other hand, is a safe way of handling the disputes since it is unbiased, neutral, balanced, and impartial. The mediator is expected to be impersonal and have an ethical obligation to assist each of the parties to reach a mutual agreement without compulsion, pressure, or intimidation from either side.
Evidently, the parties wasted a lot of time concentrating on their dispute instead of researching an agreement and looking for evidence to build a strong case against the senator. In addition, avoiding each other and fight was time wastage since they did not resolve their conflict. Mediation, however, is a very fast way to resolve the conflict, since just a few sessions with a mediator lead to the employment conflict resolution.
A key benefit that can be brought by mediation in resolving an employment conflict is that it is a win-win situation. In a fight, one party can win an argument; however, since mediation is an agreement between the disputants, everyone is satisfied and everyone wins. If there exists an improved communication and a common purpose between the employees, they will always find a solution that benefits everyone.
- Aureli. (2000). Natural conflict resolution. Barkley CA: University of California Press.
- Barkun, M. (1964). Conflict resolution through implicit mediation. Journal of Conflict Resolution 8(2): 121-130.
- Beardsley, K. C., David M. Q., Bidisha, B. D., and Jonathan W. R. (2006). Mediation style and crisis outcomes. Journal of Conflict Resolution 50(1): 58-86.
- Gerald, W. (2000): Narrative mediation: A new approach to conflict resolution. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publisher.
- Wall Jr., J.A., Stark, J.B. & Standifer, R.L. (2001). Mediation: A current review and theory development. Journal of Conflict Resolution 45: 370.