Mediation is easily one of the most under-utilised skills in the modern workplace.

It would be naive to think that workplace conflict doesn't exist - and yet how many HR departments are really prepared for the challenges of resolving that conflict while still retaining discipline and productivity in the workplace. Given that most HR departments have other interactions with the staff, it's equally understandable why an HR Representative acting as mediator between two parties wouldn't work.

Above all else, a Mediator must at all times remain impartial and fight evenly for both parties. This is where the power of mediation lies. An outsider who has no preconcieved dispensation to either party nor interest in the issues at hand - this is what's needed.

Within many office environments, conflict rears it's head between employees, between departments and even within line management. When these conflicts arise, it's often clumsily dealt with by HR or management with the best of intentions. While simple conflicts can be defused by management intervention, it's those long simmering conflicts and flare ups that are difficult to deal with. The last thing any organisation wants is to reach a position where it's forced to choose between two valuable staff members.

Mediation as a process will acknowledge both parties concerns, grieviances and seek to find constructive ways in which these can be resolved. This can often be achieved with a positive outcome that reflects well throughout the organisation. Employees are left feeling validated and above all understanding that the company is concerned about their wellbeing and happiness within the workplace.

Over the years I've been called on to intercede in a number of workplace conflicts. These have varied from dissatisfaction over salary levels to accusations of poor performance, dishonesty and even inappropriate conduct. In each of these instances, the matter could quite easily have landed into the CCMA jurisdiction where the burden of proving their innocence rests on the employer.It's quite common that an employee feels so agrieved by differences within the workplace that they resort to leaving their job. If this is the case and management has negated to help difuse and manage the conflict the company could be deemed to have performed a constructive dismissal (permitted conditions where continued employment becomes impossible) This CAN be averted!

In workplace conflict, your mediator will have in his "toolbox" the usual array of skills including empathy, listening skills, negotiating skills and much more. Many commercial mediators have attended studies in neurolinguistics and employment law so that they are best positioned to understand the dynamics. Choose a mediator with a good business background so that the company is equally represented and you have a winning combination.

Craig Pedersen
Court Aligned Mediator
Cape Town, South Africa
(Specialising: Divorce Mediation and Commercial Mediation)