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When and How to Mediate Employee to Employee Conflict

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You lead a key department in your organization. You have two employees who are in conflict with each other. They are currently only communicating via email. There is a general tension in the department and other staff members are expressing concerns about the conflict. You have noticed that one of the disputing employees is taking more sick days than usual and you are hearing grumblings about a possible harassment complaint. You decide to step in and help both employees resolve their differences directly with each other…

When to Mediate

It makes sense for you to mediate the dispute when:

  1. the employees are unable to resolve their differences without third party assistance.
  2. the employees are still willing to work out the conflict with support.
  3. the employees are interdependent in the workplace.
  4. leaving it alone will only escalate the situation resulting in lost productivity and profits, stress leaves, grievances, and harassment complaints.

How to Mediate: The Three Meeting Rule

1. First Meeting

Meet with each of the employees individually.

Tasks include determining:

  • perspective of the each employee.
  • the issues that need to be resolved and why.
  • the emotional intensity and manageability of each employee.
  • if you are the person to mediate this situation. See “When to Bring in an External Mediator”.

2. Second Meeting

If mediation is a viable option and you are a good fit as the mediator, bring the employees together in a mediated session.

Tasks include:

  • Setting a safe and comfortable atmosphere. This includes attending to location and physical comfort.
  • Starting the conversation by covering logistics: purpose, timeframes, guidelines, roles, process for the conversation, and an agenda of issues to be resolved, etc. This is no different than setting up a productive staff meeting.
  • Assisting the employees to move through the agenda items, expressing their concerns, asking questions to clarify information with each other, and sharing what is important to them moving forward. As a mediator your expertise will be put to the test as you work to keep the conversation clean, clear and concise.
  • Closing the conversation with detailed next steps.
  • Setting a follow up meeting.

3. The Third Meeting

Meet with the employees jointly to determine if the agreed to next steps have resolved the conflict.

Tasks include:

  • assessing what is working and what is not.
  • making adjustments to next steps as necessary.
  • determining if further follow up is required.

When to Bring in An External Mediator

It is makes sense to bring in a mediator external to your organization when you:

  • have concerns about being seen as biased by the involved employees or their union or if you are biased in favor of one of the employees.
  • lack the expertise or time necessary to assist the disputing employees to resolve the issues at han
  • are the final decision maker if mediation should fail.
  • have already tried and been unsuccessful.
  • need an objective opinion and report of the situation to show due diligence.
  • prefer a detailed written agreement be created through the mediation process so that you can hold the employees accountable.

Whether you prefer to mediate yourself or engage an external mediator, the goal is to address conflict situations quickly before they escalate into stress leaves, grievances and harassment complaints.

Please call us if you have any questions about mediating employee to employee conflict… 604.353.5100