Mediation

by Rita Bailey

Introduction

Have you noticed how the costs of staff disputes never turn up in budgets, profit-and-loss accounts or even the Annual Report?

Recent reports from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) have found that managing conflicts within the workplace costs the average-sized employer in Britain nearly 450 days of management time every year – equivalent to the time of two full-time managers. Disciplinary and grievance cases take up 10.5 days in management staff time. Plus, to prepare for a tribunal hearing can take up to 12.8 days in human resource, line management and lawyers’ time.

It seems obvious that any manager would want to avoid such costs, not to mention the energy and management focus that is deflected onto handling of conflicts. Using mediation skills to nip a conflict in the bud before it escalates can make a real difference to workplace morale, cohesion and team productivity, reducing the waste of management time and creating more productive relationships at work in the process.

Mediation is not just for external professional mediators. With some basic development in mediation skills, managers will find it offers a fresh approach to settling disputes well before they reach the point of no return. In-house surveys have shown that managers who invest in the necessary skills find that mediation is a worthwhile and practical addition to their toolbox. In fact, many managers have found it liberating to realise that they can learn to use mediation techniques to create a productive and harmonious workplace.