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Within any organization in which there are groups and teams that work together on an ongoing basis, there are bound to be conflicts. Individuals have different personalities and approaches to their work, and sooner or later, you are likely to have people working alongside each other that don’t get along.

Some amount of “spirited debate” within an organization is okay. It is healthy to receive different perspectives and viewpoints on various issues. When channeled constructively, this type of diversity can help foster a vibrant workplace that welcomes new ideas and “out of the box” thinking. There are other situations, however, when conflicts between team members become increasingly heated and begin to damage employee morale and productivity.

When is it Time to Mediate?

One of the most difficult jobs an employer has is managing people. When team members are not getting along, it is hard to know at what point you need to bring in outside intervention. Of course, employers prefer that employees resolve conflicts and disputes among themselves. But once it is clear that the issues are not going to be resolved on their own, it may be time to bring in outside help.

One of the best ways for groups and teams within an organization to resolve conflict is through mediation. A neutral, third-party mediator can help the parties identify the root causes of their differences and take the steps necessary to begin working amicably together. The question most employers ask is, “when is it time to start mediation?”

There are some signs that certain group or team members may require mediation. Some of the most common include:

  • The issues between them are complicated
  • These issues have gone on for an extended period of time
  • Attempts to resolve these issues internally have been unsuccessful
  • These issues are creating an increasingly toxic work environment
  • There is a risk that one or more of those involved will take outside action.

It should be noted that workplace mediation is not appropriate in all circumstances. For example, if the conflict between team members involves serious allegations such as harassment or assault, then a formal process such as a workplace investigation may be a better course of action.

What Does Workplace Mediation Look Like?

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential discussion between participants facilitated by an impartial mediator. The goal of workplace mediation is for group or team members to reach a mutual agreement to resolve their differences and work together. The mediator guides the process, but has no authority to impose a certain outcome or force an agreement upon participants.

Workplace mediation provides several advantages, such as:

  • The process is private and confidential, and statements made do not show up on employee records
  • Mediation gives employees a safe environment in which to vent their frustrations, express their viewpoints, and clear the air without fear of repercussions
  • The process empowers participants to take ownership of their part in the conflict and establish their own outcome. This makes them more invested in the outcome than if it was something that was imposed on them
  • Mediation allows team members to deal with and resolve conflicts before they escalate and potentially cause severe damage to the organization
  • Mediation sends a clear message to team members that your organization cares about the problems they are having (with other team members) and wants to maintain a healthy and productive work environment.

For workplace mediation to be successful, the participants must be willing to sit down together and work out their differences. They must believe that the process can work, be willing to listen to and consider other people’s opinions and be ready to put the dispute behind them and move forward. If group or team members enter the process with this mindset, then there is a very good chance that mediation will produce positive results.

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