The approach used is called “transformative mediation” and focuses on the relationship between the parties. This process empowers each party to express herself/himself and to re-establish their connection with the other person. The premise is that, once the parties’ interests are clarified and the relationship is sorted out, the "issues" or "positions" tend to resolve themselves.
It is explained to participants that the mediator’s role is to:
To be effective, mediation should be a voluntary option for both parties. In some cases employers “require” their employees to participate in mediation. Occasionally this can work but is a very difficult process for all concerned as there is no initial buy-in. Here are some guidelines for an employer offering mediation to an employee:
At the beginning of the joint meeting, each participant is asked to sign a consent form. Guidelines for communication are agreed upon and are included in this form. Here is a sample:
I, John Doe, understand that mediation is a voluntary process in which I have agreed to participate. The purpose of mediation is to help me arrive at an acceptable agreement after participating in open and honest discussion. To achieve this, I agree to the following guidelines:
I understand that (mediator’s name) will keep the content of my mediation session(s) confidential to the fullest extent possible. I also agree that I will not involve the mediator in any grievance or judicial hearings, including arbitration, which may arise in the future.
If agreement is reached, participants will normally complete and sign a mediation agreement. This form is not legally binding but is intended for the participants’ personal reference in remembering the key points of their agreement.
The terms of such an agreement vary depending on the situation. Often, however, they set out guidelines for how the participants will communicate respectfully with one another in future. Also included may be commitments to taking specific actions that will help to heal the relationship.
Each participant retains a copy of the form.
Employees involved in mediation require assurance that confidentiality will be maintained. If they believe that the content of their sessions may be relayed to third parties, they are unlikely to participate openly and fully in the process.
Often, however, employers request a progress report to determine if further intervention is needed. If this is the case, participants should be advised by the employer at the beginning of the process. It is recommended that the content of any mediation report be limited to answering the following general questions:
During their sessions, participants will sometimes agree that certain information needs to be shared with the employer and request that the mediator convey these items. These may include questions about role clarity, work schedules, division of workload or other factors affecting the working relationship.
Within a week after mediation has ended, it is recommended that the employer follow up with each person in confidence. In general terms:
Monitor the situation for the first 2 months by checking in briefly with each employee every couple of weeks. Keep in mind that some backsliding is normal when people are trying out new ways of interacting with one another. If you sense that things are starting to get out of hand again, however, the situation should be addressed as soon as possible.
Even if the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the opportunity to express themselves and be heard is sometimes enough to re-establish the working relationship over time.
If inappropriate behaviour continues, however, performance management measures should be implemented promptly with each employee as required: