Staff guide to mediation

Introduction

Oxford Brookes has a number of trained mediators who hold the National Certificate in Workplace Mediation and the University promotes mediation as an alternative mechanism for staff dispute resolution. This document provides some information on mediation and how the process works at Oxford Brookes.

What is mediation? Mediation is a way of resolving disputes and disagreements where an impartial third party (a mediator) helps the individuals involved in a dispute to identify and negotiate an acceptable and appropriate resolution to their problems.

Mediation has a number of benefits in the workplace that include:

  • Providing a safe, non-adversarial and non-confrontational approach to dispute resolution
  • Helping achieve an early resolution of conflict
  • Building bridges and restoring working relationships
  • Reducing stress

Does mediation work? When individuals agree to come to mediation they are taking an important step towards resolving their dispute in the most constructive way possible.

In the vast majority of cases mediation works and the parties come away with a better understanding of each other and an agreement (usually written) on how they will work together in the future. On occasion it will not be possible to reach an agreement but both parties are still likely to have gained something from the process of mediation.  

Mediation is likely to be particularly useful where there are:

  • People committed to the process and who want to solve their problems
  • People who need help to work things out
  • People who have to work together and who can’t avoid the conflict between them

What happens in a typical mediation? The mediation process at Brookes takes a full day (usually from 9am to 5pm) and uses two trained and qualified mediators working together. The mediators will get in touch with both parties before the day to have a chat, explain the process and answer any questions. On the day itself both parties spend time in the morning alone with the mediators where they will have an opportunity to talk about their situation and what they hope to achieve from coming to mediation. In the afternoon the parties come together to discuss their situation. Both parties will have the opportunity to explain their feelings and the outcome they would like without any interruption. Then there will be an open discussion between the two parties. The aim is for the parties to reach an agreement (ideally a written one) that identifies what they will do differently and how they will work together in the future. Following up on the day the mediators will contact the parties at regular intervals (generally 3,6 and 12 months) to identify progress and whether there needs to be any ‘fine-tuning’ of the final agreement.

What’s the role of the mediators? The mediators are there to help facilitate the process of the mediation. They do this by providing a safe space within which the parties can discuss their concerns and by helping the parties focus on key issues and hoped for outcomes. Mediators are completely impartial. They are not interested in blaming individuals for what has happened but in looking for a way forward. They are entirely neutral and are not there to act as a judge or take sides; their role is to facilitate the process not the outcome.

Who would know about the mediation? Mediation is a completely confidential process. The only people who would need to know about the mediation are the Dean or Director of your Faculty/Directorate, the mediation sponsor (if different from the Dean/Director), the Director of Human Resources and the mediators themselves. Mediation will always take place in a confidential location, which could be off site if necessary. The mediators will hold confidential all communications, written or oral, which occur prior to, during or after mediation. Any notes taken by the mediators or either party during the mediation will be shredded. If the parties reach a written agreement it will be confidential to them and, with their agreement, the mediation sponsor.

 If mediation were suggested to me would I have to go? The University would strongly recommend that anyone who is offered mediation consider it very carefully as an option. However participants must come to mediation through their own free will. No one will be forced to attend or to stay, as mediation is most successful when the parties attend willingly.

Would I be able to bring someone with me to the mediation? Mediation is designed to enable the parties involved in a disagreement or dispute to get together to talk. It is successful because the parties speak for themselves and listen to each other’s perspective. Because of this it is not appropriate for other people to attend the mediation. Mediation can seem daunting but the mediators will talk through the process with you in advance and will happily answer any questions you may have.

 If I think mediation would help me who should I talk to? Mediation can only take place with the agreement of the appropriate Dean or Director. Line Managers and Trade Union Representatives can recommend cases to the Dean/Director or you could approach your Dean or Director with details of your situation. The final decision on whether or not a case is suitable for mediation rests with the Director of Human Resources.

Is there anything else I need to know about mediation? A guiding principle of mediation is respect – from the mediators for the parties and between the parties themselves. Within mediation conversations must take place in a civilized manner. Participants must be willing to listen to the other person’s point of view.

 

Updated Nov 2010