In this way, a mutually agreeable outcome can be reached that is not forced on an employee by their manager, making it much less likely that the employee will raise the same grievance again in the future.
Workplace mediation is similar in principle to family mediation – and in many small family-owned businesses, disputes can arise between individuals who are related to one another.
But it also provides commercial dispute mediation to individuals whose only relationship to one another is professional, such as through an employment contract.
In all cases, it is a way to resolve disputes on equal terms, with the benefit of an independent and impartial voice from your business mediator, and to move forward in a positive way that can help to preserve and restore the good-faith relationship between both parties.
When is workplace mediation needed?
Workplace dispute mediation can be used to resolve all kinds of business disputes, but like all mediation, it is ideally suited to situations where you cannot see a way forwards or agree on the best course of action.
A mediator provides an independent, impartial voice and can help parties to see each other’s point of view, as well as explaining why a potential outcome might be better than it initially seems.
The worst case scenario in a workplace dispute is where one party feels aggrieved enough to take the other to court – this can be costly in terms of both time and money, and the verdict of the court is unlikely to restore the business relationship.
Workplace mediation provides an important alternative that is not based on one party winning and the other losing, but on negotiation and compromise, and finding a route forwards that is welcomed by all involved in a positive way.
We’ve already mentioned some of the benefits of workplace mediation above, but it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate how they stack up.
Mediation is a positive and impartial process. It helps to overcome power imbalances, for example in disputes between an employee and their manager or employer.
It aims for faster, cheaper, less stressful resolution of disputes, and can avoid employment tribunals and costly, lengthy court action.
Best of all, it can leave all parties feeling satisfied with the outcome – nobody has to ‘lose’ and the working relationship can be restored to a good faith position in many cases too.
Types of workplace mediation
The obvious type of workplace mediation is when there is a dispute between an employee and their employer, manager or business owner.
But disputes can arise between individuals at the same level of management, or between siblings who run a family-owned business together.
Commercial mediation cases can therefore include any of the following parties, along with some other dispute structures not listed here:
In cases where one party outranks the other, it can be tempting to simply ‘pull rank’ and rely on the power imbalance to resolve the dispute.
However, this can leave lower-ranked employees feeling disenfranchised and lead to poor productivity, further problems with behaviour and conduct, and ultimately lead them to leave their job.
Mediation makes sure all parties have their say, regardless of rank, so that the outcome agreed upon is fully fair and impartial, while crucially serving the interests of the business as a whole.
Workplace mediation services aim to prevent the need for formal legal action and while the dispute mediation process has a certain level of formality, it can be very flexible too.
In many cases an employee just wants to be heard without their concerns being waved off by their manager or employer – and we find time and time again that a simple apology can resolve the conflict in moments.
Where disputes are more involved, our accredited conflict coaching techniques can work with you through and beyond the dispute itself, helping to restore the working relationship.
This can not only allow employees to remain in their job rather than feeling like they have to leave, but can actually turn the relationship around to leave them feeling happier and more valued, and in turn lead to them being more productive and contributing more in the future.
How much does it cost?
Workplace dispute mediation is a professional service for businesses and as such, it is designed to be cost efficient – resolving disputes amicably should always be worth it.
More complex cases or disputes that take longer to resolve may require additional mediation sessions, but generally speaking it is a mediator’s job to reach a satisfactory conclusion as quickly as possible.
Remember that disputes left unchecked are likely to escalate. That could mean losing a valuable employee, facing an employment tribunal or even going to court, all of which can have a much higher cost to your company than scheduling a workplace mediation session.
By choosing Marcia Mediation, you benefit from access to specialist knowledge on workplace dispute resolution. Our long track record of successfully resolving workplace grievances without costly court action or tribunal awards proves that mediation is the best step forward in many workplace disagreements.
Our experience includes every type of workplace relationship, from members of the same family, to employee vs employee disputes, to owner/manager vs employee disputes where there is a disparity of power to account for.
In all cases we work diligently to represent the interests of both parties, and to reach a mutually agreeable outcome that resolves the dispute with minimal costs on both sides.
Business ownership disputes can threaten the very existence of a company, whether they relate to who has the final say in management decisions, who will take over when a current owner retires, or a disagreement between siblings in a family-owned business.
It is not uncommon for Marcia Mediation to encounter disputes in family owned companies. This is where family mediation and workplace mediation meet.
In this instance, Marcia Mediation can provide a fully experienced and well rounded approach to resolving issues which have both a professional, financial and emotional investment.
At Marcia Mediation we offer accredited workplace mediation services, providing you with the professional support you need to resolve your differences and make a decision that is mutually agreeable and in the best interests of your company.
Ultimately this is what matters most, and any future plans you agree should always look beyond yourselves as individuals and factor in what’s best for your business, something an accredited workplace mediator can help you to do.
Examples of owner-level workplace disputes
There are all kinds of ownership disputes and owner v owner grievances that a mediator can help with.
A few examples might include:
– Succession planning when owners are significantly different ages.
– Disagreements over when and whether to sell the company.
– Disputes over how much time and effort each party is putting in.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and generally speaking if you find yourself at an impasse in a dispute between business owners, a mediator from Marcia Mediation can help.
Disputes between owners and employees are among the biggest imbalances of power in workplace grievances, and it’s important to show that the employee’s side of the story is both heard and fairly treated.
Workplace mediators help to do this by treating both parties as equals. That is not to say that a workplace mediator will overcompensate by giving too much representation to the employee.
Instead, a mediator’s role is to find the right balance – and hopefully some common ground – so that everyone’s views can be taken into account and a fair, mutually agreeable outcome decided upon.
The employee benefits from equal representation despite holding less of the power, while the owner benefits from a non-discriminatory disputes policy that can retain talented employees and avoid future employment tribunals and court action.
Common owner-employee disputes
In many cases an experienced workplace mediator like Marcia Mediation will have encountered a very similar situation before.
Some examples include:
– An owner needs to enforce disciplinary action but the employee refuses to recognise it.
– An employee walks out without serving notice then claims constructive dismissal.
– An impasse is reached between the power and control of the employer, and the individual rights of the employee.
This last example describes the vast majority of owner-employee workplace disputes, where the employee believes their rights protect them against the owner’s actions, even if the owner believes their actions are in the best interests of the workplace.
Disputes between employees – even at the same level in the promotion ladder – are not always fair and equal. That’s where a workplace mediator can help.
Even if the employer believes they are acting impartially, it can be difficult to prove this and if one employee feels unfairly treated, this can lead to further tribunals and litigation.
A workplace mediator is there to listen to all sides – both employees and the employer too if appropriate – and help to move talks along in a fair and balanced way.
This leaves all involved feeling that they had equal input into the outcome and can improve the chances of a mutually satisfactory result.
When employees disagree
Employee grievances are difficult to referee. In most cases, one employee will have been with the company for longer; one may be better performing; and one may be in a more senior role.
Any such imbalance can make it hard to take sides. You don’t want to automatically side with the longest serving or most senior employee, but you don’t want to unfairly favour the other employee to compensate.
Workplace mediation offers something different and is the ideal solution to this problem. Mediators don’t take sides at all – we are there to find the middle ground on which all parties can agree.
This also removes the burden from managers and employers, ensuring you do not face accusations of discrimination or constructive dismissal in the future.
How does employee mediation work?
Employee mediation can be a part of your long-term disputes policy, but you can also call us in if a particular grievance has proved impossible to resolve internally.
Your workplace mediator will talk to all the relevant parties, including both employees, to try to find out exactly what has created the dispute and whether it is a simple misunderstanding or something deeper.
Managers and employers can be involved if appropriate, but in many cases it is quickly clear what has gone wrong and relatively quick and easy to resolve it.
Workplace mediation of disputes between managers can help to avoid the situation where one party is more senior than the other and therefore expects the company to take their side.
It is also an effective solution when the parties involved are at similar levels of management in different departments or different parts of the company hierarchy, making it unclear who is in the more senior role.
By calling in an experienced workplace mediator, you can judge each party’s claims on merit rather than management level and show that you are taking fair and equal action.
This improves outcomes by achieving a positive and satisfactory result for both parties where possible and reducing the risk of future legal action or tribunal claims.
Why do managers disagree?
Disputes between managers are not uncommon. In many cases they arise when managers have a degree of autonomy but not full control.
This can lead to disagreements about how best to proceed with a particular project, especially when multiple departments are involved and there is not one clear line management structure to follow.
In such cases, workplace mediation provides an independent voice – and independent ears – to listen to all sides of the story and help establish a route forwards.
By doing this quickly and amicably, you can keep projects on track and reduce the negative impact of disputes across the board, while achieving a positive resolution faster and with less stress and financial cost.
Disputes between managers and lower-level employees can be a challenge for company owners and directors to resolve fairly.
In the first instance you might want to side with the manager. This is not entirely unreasonable, as they are usually the longer-serving employee and closer to the heart of your organisation.
However, adopting this as your default position is troublesome. It effectively puts employees at a disadvantage even when they have a legitimate grievance to raise.
Workplace mediation is the better option. It takes a neutral, independent stance and makes certain that no decisions are made until both sides of the story have been heard and weighed up on an equal footing.
Solutions without taking sides
An experienced workplace mediator does not take sides. Instead they act on the evidence from all involved parties to produce a solution that is the best fit for all concerned.
In many disputes in the workplace, the ‘normal’ approach is to seek a compromise where both parties are forced to lower their expectations.
But with mediation it’s often possible to come up with a flexible way forward so that nobody needs to compromise, leaving all parties feeling more positive about the solution.
This is when an independent mediator is at their best, drawing on all of their experience in business to identify the core of the problem and the ideal way to resolve it with maximum satisfaction all round.
A pioneer for mediation since commencing legal practice as a family solicitor some seventeen years ago, Marcia has worked exclusively as an independent mediator since 2004, focussing initially on family mediation, and latterly on work place mediation.
Marcia’s accreditations include Family Mediation and she is a qualified child consultant practitioner. Her associations include the Professional Mediators Association and Resolution.