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A large number of organizations are set up to have employee complaints handled by the human resources (HR) department. When an employee is having a problem with a coworker or supervisor, they are typically told to file a complaint with HR, and from that point, HR is supposed to investigate the complaint, address the matter, and resolve the situation.

Unfortunately, this process is confusing for many employees, and some do not believe that they will get a fair shake from their HR department. HR is viewed as another branch within the company, which it is. This can be problematic for employees who have disputes, particularly when they have a complaint against someone in management.

How do they know that their issue is going to be taken seriously? And how do they know that they won’t experience negative repercussions after they report the issue? Employees are naturally skeptical about this type of process, and as a result, many choose not to go this route.

They may decide to do nothing about the problem and just live with it, making them unhappy with their work environment. On the other hand, they may decide that things are so bad, they need to take legal action against the organization. Either way, this can quickly become much costlier for everyone involved.

Using Mediation to Resolve Workplace Disputes

Mediation is not a threat to HR professionals. Rather, it serves as an essential first step toward proactively resolving employee disputes. A growing number of human resource departments are adopting workplace mediation as an effective solution to handle employee complaints and disputes. Human resource professionals are now coming to view outside mediators as partners in the dispute resolution process.

Mediation can be an invaluable resource for HR departments, because it provides a way for employees to have their issues fairly addressed. This process can help with a wide range of workplace issues, such:

  • Differences over culture and values in the workplace;
  • Personality clashes;
  • Coworker disputes over various work processes;
  • Employee complaints about unfair performance reviews;
  • Other various disputes between employees and managers/supervisors;
  • Initial harassment complaints based on miscommunication or misperception.

It is important to note that, although mediation is a useful tool to effectively address many workplace issues, it is not a replacement for the formal complaint and grievance process. Some issues, such as instances of real harassment, discrimination, and other civil rights violations may require a more formal remedy.

The Advantages of Workplace Mediation

There are several benefits for HR departments that provide workplace mediation for their workforce:

  • Impartiality: The process is facilitated by a neutral, third-party mediator who is not employed by the organization and has no vested interest in the outcome of the proceeding. This gives employees the assurance that they will be participating in a process that is fair and impartial.
  • Recognition: Employees have the opportunity to air their grievances in a confidential setting in which they can feel safe and comfortable honestly expressing their point of view. During the process, employees feel like they are being heard, and they also have the opportunity to hear and try to understand the other party’s point of view. This greatly increases the chances of developing a peaceable and workable resolution.
  • Empowerment: Although it is facilitated by an outside mediator, the process is voluntary, and participants are ultimately in control of the outcome. This gives employees the opportunity to reach a resolution based on their direct input, rather than having the outcome decided by someone else (like they are used to on the job). Because of this, when a resolution is reached, employees are more likely to take ownership and adhere to whatever is agreed upon.
  • Cost Effectiveness: Mediation is cost-effective not only from the standpoint of avoiding a potentially expensive legal action, but also because it allows organizations to address complaints and disputes early on and before they become much bigger issues. This helps foster a happier and more productive work environment.
  • Timely Resolutions: Mediation can be completed in a relatively short period of time, often in just a few hours. This is typically much quicker than having an employee go through a formal complaint process, or worst-case scenario, a protracted legal proceeding.

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