Basic Mediation and Manager as Mediator

Now that we are aware of the principles of mediation, what applications do they have for the organization? Why is it beneficial for managers to resolve conflict, possibly with the use of mediation, as opposed to using arbitration? What traits and characteristics does a typical mediator possess? Do you share any of these traits?


A Bridge over Troubled Waters

Mediation vs. Arbitration

  • Mediation
    • Voluntary settlement
    • Process control
    • Usually outcomes are seen as fair
    • "Saves Face"
    • No settlement enforcement
  • Arbitration
    • Hearing
    • A binding settlement is reached by 3rd party
    • "Saves face"
    • Two types
  1. Traditional-the arbitrator comes up with a settlement that both parties can agree to
  2. Final Offer- arbitrator chooses one of the disuptants final offer

Mediation and the Mediator

Mediation is:

  • Voluntary
  • Private
  • Neutral and Non-directive
  • Goals
  • Personal & Relational transformation
  • Problem-solving?

When Is Mediation Useful?

  • When conflict has strong emotions
  • When communication has broken down
  • When one party feels frustrated by the other
  • When starting the negotiation is too difficult
  • When the negotiation has reached an impasse

How Can Mediation Help?

  • Provides a controlled setting where parties can vent emotions
  • Controls the procedure so that disputants have voice (procedural justice)
  • Engages the disputants in searching for acceptable settlements
  • Facilitates information sharing

Mediation and the Mediator

The Successful Mediator:

  • Trusts & creates trust
  • Is neutral
  • Has excellent listening skills
  • Is professional
  • Is patient and flexible

Creating the Mediation Environment

The Room

Factors to Consider

  • Privacy
  • Security
  • Comfort
  • Lighting
  • Temperature
  • Noise
  • Neutral messages
  • Rest Rooms and vending

The Table

Why a Table?

  • The table creates a formal atmosphere
  • The table creates an initial air of confrontation
  • The table offers protection and secure territory to each party
Seating Arrangement

For single mediator: 

D= disputant M= mediator tel.= telephone

For co-mediation:

D= disputant M= mediator tel.= telephone

For co-mediation:

D= disputant M= mediator tel.= telephone EC= Empty Chair

For multiple party mediation:

D= disputant M= mediator tel.= telephone

Other Factors:
  • Supplies
  • Other parties in attendance
  • Initial greetings
  • Tardiness and absence

The Six Step Mediation Process


Caucusing is useful if:
  • Mediator suspects hidden agenda / underlying message
  • Separation of parties is beneficial
  • A disputant is too concessionary, having trouble communicating
  • A disputant is intentionally frustrating the process
  • A disputant is dealing with an extremely sensitive or personal issue

  • Do I need to review discrepancies in information?
  • Do I need to de-escalate anger of hostility that a disputant may be feeling?
  • Do I need to explore hidden issues or agendas?
  • Do I need to confront behaviors or attitudes that are blocking the process?
  • Do I need to determine how committed the disputants are to achieving a resolution?

The Process:
  • Discuss with your co-mediator whether or not a caucus is desired.
  • Explain the decision to disputants and reiterate the caucus rules.
  • The mediators keep one disputant in the room working on an assignment, while he/she is waiting.
  • The mediators meet with the first disputant, taking notes that are separate from those notes taken in the joint session.
  • Ask the first disputant how she/he feels about the process and explore any issues or concerns that the mediators may have.
  • Confirm if any information is to be shared with the other disputant.
  • Repeat with other disputant

Building a bridge from caucus to joint session

Mediator: "Now that we are back in joint session, Chris, there is something that Ernie has been wanting to tell you but has been unable to do so for fear that you would immediately judge him and not listen to his explanation. Would you be willing to allow Ernie to share this information as well as his explanation?"

Chris: "Sure. I want to get to the bottom of this. What's going on?"

A Sample Caucus

Mediator: Carol, during the mediation session, you have seemed angry and I had to caution you several times about following the ground rules. Is everything okay? Are you still willing to continue?

Carol: Yes, everything is fine. I just can't sit here listening to her lie like that.

Mediator: I understand that you want the truth to be told today, but I should remind you that I am not here to decide right and wrong.

Carol: Yeah, I know that.

Mediator: That is helpful Carol, but the only way that mediation can work is when everyone says what they need to say, without fear of being interrupted. As I mentioned, I have had to confront you on several different occasions to allow Monique to speak.

Carol: I'm sorry, but I get frustrated listening to her crap.

Mediator: I understand that, Carol, but I have to tell you that when you interrupt as you have been doing, it makes it difficult for Monique to say what she needs to say and it makes it difficult for me to assist both of you. I hope you understand that these interruptions need to stop. Can I count on you for this?

Carol: Yeah. I'll stop. But aren't you being a bit harsh, or violating your neutrality or something?

Mediator: I am just reminding you that there are ground rules which I need everyone to follow. If the ground rules cannot be followed after we come back together as a group, I may decide to terminate this session. I thought it would be more appropriate to talk to you about this privately, rather than doing so in front of Monique.

Carol: Okay, I appreciate that.

Terminating a Mediation Session

Conditions for Termination
  • The mediator becomes aware of felony-level criminal activity.
  • The mediator becomes aware of any type of child abuse.
  • The ground rules have been consistently ignored by one or both disputants.
  • Threats of violence or harassment are made by any party.
  • The mediator feels that one disputant or both disputants is no longer acting in good faith.
  • One disputant or both disputants walks out of the session.

Tips for Termination
  • When co-mediating, always discuss the decision to terminate with your partner prior to announcing a termination.
  • Never demonstrate anger or allow the disputants to see that you are taking the situation personally. Maintain the same tone of voice you have used throughout the session.
  • State the reason that you are terminating the session to both disputants in a clear and firm voice. Take ownership of the decision, and do not negotiate with the disputants.
  • Place the responsibility for the action where it belongs. Do not apologize for your decision.
  • State the consequences of your decision. In cases of felony behavior or child abuse, indicate to the disputants that you are required to report this information to your mediation supervisor. If these conditions do not exist, indicate to the disputants how they may go about reinitiating the mediation process if later desired.
  • If possible and desired, develop a partial agreement over any points that have been successfully resolved by the disputants.
  • End on a positive note. This may seem difficult to do, but even in the worst mediation sessions, it does no good to leave the disputants feeling that the situation is hopeless. Even if future mediation is out of the question, you may wish to review other options that the disputants may pursue.

Sample Termination

Situation: Mike and Janice are involved in a mediation session to assist them in resolving a dating relationship dispute. Mike has been acting disorderly, since Janice indicated her desire to cease the dating relationship. Mike is making angry comments towards Janice, and the mediator interrupts.

Mediator: "Mike, I must interrupt and ask both of you for your attention. As you know, my role here is to assist both of you, and I have attempted to remain objective and neutral throughout this session. I reviewed the ground rules with both of you at the beginning of this session and reminded you of them several times when there were interruptions and name calling. Mike, your continuous interruptions and sarcastic comments throughout the session demonstrate to me that you are not acting in good faith in this process. I am unable to effectively carry out my responsibilities and am therefore terminating this session".

Mike: "You can't do that!"

Mediator: "You will recall that during the introductory statement I made it clear that I do have this authority. I am now choosing to exercise it. There will be no negotiation of this decision, and I will report the reasons for this termination to my supervisor. You may then address any concerns that you may have about me with her".

Mike: "Aw, come on….I'll be good from now on".

Mediator: "You have had sufficient opportunities to demonstrate your good faith and have failed to do so".

Janice: "So where does this leave me? He has been harassing me for over a month".

Mike: (yelling) "I have not been harassing you!"

Mediator: "I will be happy to assist both of you in making an appointment with my supervisor to review your options. Janice, it is my understanding that because this case is a deferral of disciplinary action, charges may now be initiated through the dean's office".

Janice: "Okay".

Mediator: (to both) "Although I am disappointed by today's outcome, I am encouraged by the fact that you had both entered the mediation process in the first place. If future opportunities can be used in a more responsible manner, I am sure you will make better progress. Thank you for coming".

Challenges to 3rd Party Intervention/Mediation

  • Assessing the bargaining zone
  • Promoting win/win outcomes
  • Promoting fair outcomes

Pros of Managers as Mediators

  • Mediation results in more integrative outcomes.
  • Mediation gets at the problem underlying the dispute.
  • Mediation takes into account any relationship issues.
  • Managerial decisions tend to be one-sided or split-the-difference compromises.
  • It is cost-effective.

Why Then, Don't Managers Mediate More Frequently?

  • The role does not cue mediation behavior (used to making decisions for subordinates).
  • Managers do not necessarily know how to do it.
  • There is fear that parties will not get an agreement.
  • The manager's own interests (or the company's interests) may affect the outcome of the dispute.

Source: Saylor Academy,
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Last modified: Tuesday, December 7, 2021, 5:21 PM