Mediation: The High Art of Conflict Resolution (2/2)

How far can mediation help with conflicts at work?
How far can mediation help with conflicts at work?

In part 1 of this two-part series, you learned about the goals and principles of mediation. Now we want to take a closer look at the individual phases of the mediation process.

The following set of six phases, while being tried and tested, isn’t the only possible way to do mediation – there are other successful methods, too, some more simple, some more complex. In one way or another, however, they will all involve most of the steps described below.

1. Preparation phase

In this phase, you do everything necessary for the first face-to-face meeting:

  • Detecting the conflict:

Some conflicts are painfully obvious to everyone in the company, others are hidden and have to be identified as such. In some cases, it may even be hard to identify all the parties involved.

  • Gaining the agreement of the conflict parties:

No conflict resolution process can be successful without the participants’ acknowledgement of the problem and their willingness to contribute to its resolution.

  • Setting up and communicating the process:

This is the organizational part of the preparation: It is all about who will take part, where you will meet, when you will meet, and if there is anything you’d like the participants to bring to / prepare for the first meeting.

2. Opening phase

Depending on the severity of the conflict, this is either the first meeting or the first couple of meetings. Here, the mediator explains the process, his role as mediator, and the communication guidelines for the mediation. Afterwards, each party gets to describe the conflict situation from their view.

3. Exploration phase

This phase is the core and center of the entire mediation – and its successful execution is crucial for a successful conflict resolution. In this phase, the mediator helps the parties (depending on the specific needs of the participants in private or in joint meetings or both) to surface their underlying interests. The main goal is to get the conflict parties to move away from positions and towards interests. It is the foundation upon which the resolution process is built.

Once you know what the conflicting parties’ interests are, you can encourage them to find a way to meet those interests. In this phase, both parties try to appreciate the interests of the other side and to find a solution everyone can live with. Usually, this process involves some kind of bargaining, compromising, and deal making.

5. Concluding phase

After both parties have agreed on a viable solution, the mediator documents the solution including follow-up actions, responsibilities, and time frame. All parties re-affirm their willingness and dedication to resolve the conflict on the basis of the agreed plan. This concludes the main mediation process.

6. Follow-up phase

In order to ensure the enduring success of the mediation effort, it is advisable to plan regular follow-up meetings in which parties discuss the progress of the action plan and have the opportunity to voice concerns or ask questions. Sometimes, this phase uncovers issues that had remained hidden before, making it necessary to adapt the solution agreed upon. The follow-up phase also helps participants refresh their memory and their dedication in regard to the execution of the action plan.

Conflict resolution is never easy – and there is no silver bullet. However, out of all the existing tools and methodologies for conflict management, mediation if done right – has been proven to be very effective. If you think that there are too many internal conflicts within your company and if you are looking for a viable solution, mediation may well be exactly what you’re looking for.

If you would like to read more about the topic of mediation, then download the Premium eBook Intercultural mediation at work by Susanne Schuler. Also, have a look at our website where you’ll find many more Premium eBooks.

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