Mediation is a structured confidential process of informal positive dispute resolution. An impartial mediator assists parties in dispute to collaboratively resolve their concerns in a voluntary, confidential and non-judgemental way. There are several ways in which mediation can be employed to positively resolve dispute and conflict concerns in the workplace. Mediation is useful for disputes arising out of personal, interpersonal or inter-departmental issues, alleged bullying incidents, change management situations, contract negotiations and customer complaint issues. In fact, Mediation can be applied in almost every situation where conflict arises within a workplace setting to provide a collaborative settlement reached through mutual co-operation between parties.
The HSA recommends mediation as an informal route to proactively address concerns of bullying allegations at work (see extract below). The role of the Health and Safety Authority in respect of bullying at work is to monitor if employers and employees are meeting their obligations and duty of care under the 2005 legislation Act. Where complaints of bullying at work are made to the Authority it directs that the procedures of their HSA Code be observed and recommends mediation as an informal process for resolving complaints in the prevention and resolution of bullying at work.
Mediation fosters empathy and respect for deeper understanding of each other's concerns and the other's perspective of the situation. Personal concerns are heard and validated through the mediator witnessing and assisting parties mutually explore their concerns in a respectful manner. Negative conflict patterns of behaviour shift to positive conflict patterns that produce long term benefits and improved communications in the workplace. Improved communications lead to improved job performance and a happier workforce to produce a win/win result for both employee and employer.
(The following is a direct Extract from the HSA Code pertaining to the recommended use of Mediation for resolution)
- Section 5.3 ACCESS TO COMPETENT ADVISORY SERVICES 'Employers have a duty under safety and health laws to obtain the services of a competent person where necessary to help comply with such laws. There may be situations as regards bullying at work where an employer could benefit from expert assistance. This could be provided within the undertaking or sourced from outside. It could involve seeking help from an employer or other representative body which provides such advice or from relevant public bodies such as the Health and Safety Authority or the Labour Relations Commission. It could involve seeking the services of persons particularly qualified in mediation or counselling or training in this area.'
- 6.1.b INTERVENTION (extract from HSA code on Bullying in the workplaces). 'In following the informal process, steps to stop the bullying behaviour, where it has been identified, and monitor the situation along specified lines should be agreed with both parties. This may involve a direct or indirect approach and possible resolution through a programme to change behaviour. It may involve mediation* by an agreed mediator who is practised in dealing with bullying at work.'
by Yasmin McNelis