Case Study : Mediating a Dispute
It is important to engage Fred and Sally in order to resolve the ensuing dispute. Griffith and Goodwin (2013) identify three approaches that mediators can adopt in resolving disputes among employees. These approaches include the evaluative, facilitative, and the transformative approach. In the evaluative approach, the mediator engages communication between the various parties involved in the disagreement. The mediator has a bigger role to play in that he/she offers solutions to the parties involved. In the facilitative approach, the mediator enhances the communication process but allows the various parties to develop possible solutions to the problem. The transformative approach focuses on enhancing cohesion between the parties in the long term. A facilitative approach can be effective in solving the dispute between Fred and Sally.
The first step will involve establishing the cause of the dispute. There are various issues contributing to the dispute between Fred and Sally. They have differences in their personal approach to work. Fred follows a methodical approach while addressing problems. On the other hand, Sally follows her instincts while solving problems. Sally is also a go-getter. They have poor communication, which is also contributing to the problem. Fred and Sally also hold different values and cultures. It is worth noting that most people hold succinct ideas about what they term as fair, which is part of the personal value system. There are also values that are largely shared by the community. Shared values give a sense of natural justice.
An informal mediation can help in resolving the ensuing dispute. Thus as Joe, I would first engage Fred and Sally separately to brief them on the situation at hand. Individual meetings with Fred and Sally are key in the negotiation process. Individual meetings can enable Fred and Sally to put across their perspectives of the dispute without unnecessary interruption. My role as the mediator is to establish a common ground, and thus encourage Fred and Sally to open up their concerns. My major aim here is to ensure that Fred and Sally agree to participate in mediation. This is by convincing them that participating in the mediation will be for their own benefit, including enhancing their reputation in the organization. It is worth noting that mediation has cost benefits to the organization as well as improving efficiency. Quick resolutions help in reducing employee absence, reducing litigation, and reducing the number of resignations.
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It is important for the mediator to observe the principles that guide the mediation process. Roche, Teague, and Colvin (2014) identify three key principles that the mediator should observe during the process. The first principle involves ensuring confidentiality among all parties in a dispute. Confidentiality protects those involved and encourages them to talk freely. The second principle is voluntary participation and willingness among the parties to seek solutions to the problem. Participation in seeking a resolution is based on good faith among parties. Forcing Fred and Sally to participate in the mediation process may not yield benefits since although they may participate, both may refuse to iron out the issues of concern due to lack of commitment. The third principle discourages the application of representation in the mediation process (Roche, Teague, & Colvin, 2014). Fred and Sally should look for a resolution themselves, as this is what constitutes mediation.
Once the parties develop a positive mindset towards looking for a solution to the dispute, it is now time for the mediator to take the next step. In this step, I would talk with Fred and Sally individually inviting them for talks or meeting at a particular place. I would remind them that the meeting would help iron out issues between them and thus improve their performance. I would emphasize on the need to attend the meeting since it would help them develop good working relationships and achieve their set goals. As Joe, I would avoid condemning any of the parties with regard to the ongoing dispute. Blaming one party may not yield positive benefits. According to Griffith and Goodwin (2013), the mediator should make an invitation instead of giving a command to the parties involved in the dispute.
The mediator should note that the parties involved may still be hesitant to attend the meeting. For instance, Fred or Sally may claim that the only solution to the current stalemate is for them to go back to their previous roles within the organization. As the mediator, I would urge them by saying that there are possible alternatives to the problem they may have overlooked. As such, it is important to give dialogue one more chance. I would be a bit persistent in calling on Fred and Sally to the meeting, but insist it is for their own benefit. The mediator should also anticipate issues concerning trust to be raised by the parties (Roche, Teague, & Colvin, 2014). In this case, it is important to assure the parties that these issues will be resolved during the meeting. The goal of the mediator should be to offer hope to the parties that the meeting will yield a resolution.
The mediation environment may influence the effectiveness of the process. It is the role of the mediator to create a favorable mediation environment. According to Griffith and Goodwin (2013), the various factors to consider include the location, time, and the seating arrangement. The appropriate time to hold a meeting is when the parties have more energy. However, this can be influenced by the work schedules of each party. The location for the meeting should be neutral. A neutral location will be any other location apart from my office or any of the parties’ work area. The location should be free from distractions. I will use a square seating configuration while addressing the parties. This seating configuration portrays the mediator as neutral (Griffith & Goodwin, 2013).
During the meeting, I would start with a small talk about the need to develop positive work relationships. I would then suggest some ground rules to take effect during the meeting. For instance, the parties should use respectful language while communicating. Another possible rule is the need to give each a fair chance to voice their opinions (Griffith & Goodwin, 2013). Thus, when one party talks the other party should listen and give time before responding. I would also remind them that although the decisions to be made are not legally binding, they are expected to stick to the agreement reached. As the mediator, I would act independent. During the meeting, my key role would be to develop new ideas that can help in developing a resolution. Another role would be to examine the perceptions of each party towards the dispute. Key things to avoid include focusing much on the history of the dispute, defend legal rights, or counsel any of the party.
The mediation process involves each party telling their part of the story. Once they tell their story, the mediator examines the underlying issues (Griffith & Goodwin, 2013). The mediator ensures the parties follow the ground rules. It would be my role to help move the discussion forward. One way of doing this is by asking open-ended questions. I would then uncover the interests of both parties. For instance, Fred’s interests are working using a methodical approach, while Sally follows her instincts. They also hold different values and cultures. Next, I would frame the issue. This is by asking Fred and Sally how they can use their different work approaches to improve their outcomes and reduce risks. Sally and Fred may then develop various options concerning the issue. For instance, Fred may suggest that Sally should give him enough time to solve problems. They may also suggest that each should solve problems along a particular line or in particular days. I would evaluate the various options and then make a final statement about the issue. The final statement is a suggestion of the way Fred and Sally should handle their work.
There are various challenges that one can face in the mediation process. The main challenge is failure by both parties to agree on possible options (Raines, Kumar Pokhrel, & Poitras, 2013). Another challenge may arise when the mediator misunderstands the dispute between the parties. Distrust between Fred and Sally may be a key challenge in reaching a resolution. Inadequate preparation on my part can hinder the dispute resolution process. Partisan perceptions can negatively influence the process. This is characterized by being over-confident and judgmental by any on the parties involved in the mediation process. Lastly, false impressions by Fred or Sally can negatively affect the mediation process. My key strengths in the mediation process are patience, credibility, adaptability, and initiative.
Griffith, D., & Goodwin, C. (2013). Dispute survival toolkit: Tools for resolving dispute at work (2nd ed.). New York: Pearson. (ISBN-13: 9780132741057).
Raines, S. S., Kumar Pokhrel, S., & Poitras, J. (2013). Mediation as a profession: Challenges that professional mediators face. Dispute Resolution Quarterly, 31(1), 79-97. doi:10.1002/crq.21080
Roche, W. K., Teague, P., & Colvin, A. J. (2014). The Oxford handbook of dispute management in organizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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