When people first hear that I provide workplace conflict resolution services and training, they often conjure up pictures of mediation. While there are certainly many elements of mediation involved in third-party workplace conflict resolution, it differs from civil mediation in several significant ways.
- The parties in traditional civil mediation very often will not have a continuing relationship after mediation concludes. That is not always true, but it is often true. For instance, an injured party will mediate her claim against an insured driver, accept the settlement proceeds, and never shall they meet again. On the other hand, the point of workplace conflict resolution is to keep the working relationship between the employees intact. The parties WILL have a continuing relationship after conflict resolution. The continuing relationship adds an important element to the resolution.
- Workplace conflict resolution is intended to benefit the employer first and foremost, not the employees. In traditional mediation, the parties are the primary beneficiaries of the mediation. The goal of workplace conflict resolution is to resolve a business problem of the employer. For instance, if a conflict between two employees or a group of employees is causing significant delays in a project schedule—that creates a business problem for the employer. The employer wants to solve the business problem. It just so happens that to solve it, the employees must be involved in the resolution and they become secondary beneficiaries of the resolution process.
- Unlike traditional mediation, which is voluntary and confidential, an employee may be required by the employer to participate in workplace conflict resolution and the resolution agreement reached by the employees in dispute is usually shared with the manager or human resources department for future accountability and tweaking if necessary.