Mediation is a tool to resolve conflicts that involves a neutral third party. The third party, usually a trained mediator, helps the parties in a dispute find a mutually satisfying way forward. The “parties” are the two people in conflict (it can also be two companies, or informal groups that are larger than just a single person on each side). To say they find a “mutually satisfying” way forward simply means that the resolution is voluntary; the mediator does not tell the parties they have to do anything.
It may go without saying, but the workplace is full of opportunities for conflict - and thus for conflict resolution, too! Some cultures welcome disagreements and open discussions; other places may claim to welcome open discussions but really try to shut down disagreements early on. Sadly, this winds up causing conflicts and discomfort to fester. A trained mediator can help resolve...
The smell of garlic filled the air, tinged with broccoli and melted butter. The floor was slick. Blue, white, and green ceramic shards were everywhere. The silence lasted at least half a minute before my oldest daughter said, “Whoa, that scared me!” She stood next to the open dishwasher. My younger daughter stood next to me, with a stricken look on her face, knowing it was her hand that had knocked the bowl of leftover dinner vegetables from my hand, onto the floor.
My younger daughter had washed her hands and decided to “air dry” them. She had just begun to swing her arms wildly (ah, kids) as I walked into the kitchen carrying multiple dishes with food on them; one of them was the leftover vegetables. My younger daughter’s arm collided with the large serving bowl in my hand, and bam! The bowl hit the floor, along with the broccoli, string beans, garlic, and melted butter.
Here’s how I handled it after the initial moment of...
Let me first say: I am not a lawyer. Nothing in this post is intended to give you legal advice!
Now, as a mediator I am sometimes asked about how to find a lawyer. While many mediators are lawyers, I am not – and even if your mediator is a lawyer, they are not allowed to represent you or give you legal advice while mediating! (A lot of mediating is about neutrality, and the mediator would not be a neutral third party if they gave one side legal advice.)
Since I became a mediator, I have learned about a few options for people who think they need a lawyer. These are either low/no-cost services, or, services that are intended to put you in touch with a lawyer who you then can decide whether or not to hire. There are three services local to where I live that I’ll highlight in this post.
Legal Services of Northern Virginia (LSNV)
LSNV is a nonprofit whose mission is to provide access to justice for disadvantaged individuals and communities. Designed to help...
This morning I had the pleasure of hearing Danny Nelms, President of the Work Institute, present about the real reasons employees leave their jobs. There are 50 different reasons employees choose to leave their workplace.
The Work Institute is an HR consulting firm that treats exit interviews like academic research studies, and every year they create a report that summarizes – with anonymized data – what they have learned about why employees left their companies in the prior year.
Apparently the truism that “people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers,” is sort of, kind of, not really true. Here are the top three reasons people choose to leave their jobs:
Lack of career development
Yup, managers are number 3! But look at those first two things - they are absolutely aspects of work that managers have a lot of control over. Yes, company-wide policies set limits on career development, promotion, flexibility, and paid...
Do you work in a business with fewer than 250 employees in Northern Virginia? I invite you to take my current survey, Research on Familiarity with Mediation and Facilitation.
I’ve found that people who work in the legal system are usually familiar with mediation, but most people are not certain what it is. Or, they think it’s something that can be used to resolve amicable divorces, and not much else. However mediation can be used to resolve many workplace issues, and for a lower cost than alternative solutions like hiring a business coach, firing an employee, or ignoring the conflict.
Facilitation presents a somewhat different problem: People who know what it is, but haven’t experienced really great facilitation or are extra budget-conscious, believe it’s not truly necessary for their own meetings or planning processes. The word facilitation simply means the process of making something easier. Meeting facilitation has many forms. Most professional...
Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
Psychiatrist Karl Menninger, 1893-1990
Recently, I’ve spoken to several small business owners, salespeople, and fellow mediators and professional facilitators about how the skills used in mediation translate to so many other arenas of life. The most important one, I think, is listening well. Great listening skills can help pretty much all the time: at work, in friendships, while parenting kids of any age, and when talking to neighbors, clients, friends, loved ones… pretty much anyone.
We all have a basic need to be listened to, to be understood. Listening to understand helps you comprehend, sympathize, and identify with the other person. In conflicts, and often throughout life, only when a person feels that their story (or point of view) has been ...
Mediation is a voluntary process for parties and mediators. Yes, you read that right. Mediators have an ethical responsibility to ensure all parties feel equally able to negotiate, and the parties do so in good faith. If a mediator has any doubt, they ought to end the mediation.
You may be thinking “But I’m paying you!” Yes, you are. You’re paying for the services of a mediation session (or sessions). As a trained professional mediator, my expertise includes paying attention to the parties and their ability to represent themselves in the process and negotiate on equal (or near-equal) footing. My expertise also includes making ethical determinations about whether the parties are operating in good faith.
The flip side of this is that any time a party feels uncomfortable, they have the right to end the mediation as well. Of course, feeling uncomfortable can happen for a great variety of reasons, and mediators will try to feel you out – usually one-on-one...
Mediation is a great way to resolve conflicts, and it can work well in a wide variety of settings. Here’s just a small list:
Workplace issues amongst coworkers
Performance management issues
Conflict between co-owners of a business
Civil matters like property ownership or damage disputes
Business-to-business conflicts about work quality
Family decision-making, such as help to make decisions essential to writing a will or financial planning
While mediators generally do not want to know much about the dispute in a specific case until they know all parties have agreed to mediation, it can be helpful for parties to understand some basics about mediation.
The mediator is an impartial third party. The mediator should have no interest in how the conflict will be resolved. If you feel like a mediator may be biased, speak up and ask them about it.
This is also why a mediator may ask you to stop telling them about your case early on - in initial phone...
Mediation is a form of dispute resolution, meaning: If two people or businesses have a disagreement, a mediator will help them find a resolution. Mediation is typically categorized as a form of alternative dispute resolution. As in, mediation is an alternative to using lawyers and the legal system. So, instead of suing a person or company, a mediator can help people find a mutually acceptable resolution to their problem.
Bonus: Mediation is also quicker and cheaper than the courts.
The main ways in which mediation is different from using lawyers and judges are:
Mediation is confidential. Courts are typically public.
Mediation is voluntary. Courts generally impose consequences if a party does not show up.
Mediation is all about self-determination - in other words, the parties create their own solutions. In a court, a judge decides for the parties.
Often, mediators are attorneys who recognize the fact that their unique skill set is not actually best suited to all cases. So...