Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process where disputing parties engage, with the help of an impartial party, a mediator, to resolve their disputes. It can be an expeditious way of solving workplace conflicts without public scrutiny as it is a private process, parties can come up with creative solutions for the issues at hand, and it is also cost-effective.
Like any other mediation service, employment mediation is not without common challenges that can hinder its effectiveness. However, with the right approach and tools, many of the common challenges and issues can be overcome, facilitating collaborative solutions between the conflicting parties. Let us look at some common challenges experienced in employment mediation and practical ways that we overcome them at Blue Sky Mediation Center.
Unwillingness to Meet Face-to-Face
Direct and constructive communication plays a crucial role in resolving workplace disputes. When parties are unwilling to meet face-to-face, this can hinder the progress of the mediation process. To overcome this challenge, the mediator can organize private sessions to start with. We utilize the “caucus method” at Blue Sky Mediation Center, where each group is given their own room (either virtually or in person). This allows the parties involved in the dispute to relax, knowing that they will not be forced to confront the opposing party and/or opposing attorney. This can help you reach a mutual settlement and give you confidence in ensuring the terms of the settlement work.
An impasse may occur when each party refrains from making the first offer, when one party makes a first offer and remains immovable even after offers from the other side, or when parties disagree on offers and fail to move further. In such situations, it is best to take a break, and reconvene when the parties have reflected on the issue and had a chance to cool down. Dealing with such an impasse is a common occurrence during a mediation, and our mediators have many tools that allow them to break such an impasse and continue the momentum towards a full and final resolution.
Lack of Trust
Another common challenge in employment mediation is a lack of trust. Sometimes, employees may distrust their employer, the attorneys, or even the mediation process itself. This can result in a reluctance to actively participate and share information or even agree on possible solutions to remedy the problem. To overcome this, you should choose an impartial, skilled, and experienced mediator who can maintain confidentiality and help you gain trust in the process so that you can actively work towards resolving the conflict. They can do this by encouraging you to clarify your expectations, air your concerns or doubts at any point during the mediation process, and find common interests and goals with the other party to build trust.
Employment mediation often involves dealing with power imbalances (real or perceived) between the parties. Sometimes, employees may feel pressured, intimidated, or coerced by their employer and/or their attorney, especially if facing a grievance or disciplinary issue. This can affect the autonomy of mediation and hinder employees from expressing their interests. To overcome this challenge, employees should be well-prepared for the mediation and set the goals and boundaries for the session. They can also use the mediator’s expertise in facilitating the confidential communication to help them balance the power dynamics so that their issues are resolved amicably, regardless of status.
Another challenge is when employees enter mediation with high hopes and unrealistic expectations or demands that, when not met, often lead to disappointment or an impasse. While the mediator is an impartial and unbiased third party, some employees expect these professionals to take sides or even impose a solution. To overcome this challenge, employees should avoid unrealistic expectations, be open-minded and willing to explore alternatives to a settlement and listen to the other party’s interests and needs. As we oftentimes say in mediation “the currency in which we deal is compromise.”
Employment disputes can be emotionally charged, leading to anger, hurt, frustration, or anxiety. These feelings can trigger defensive or aggressive emotions, escalating the conflict instead of finding constructive solutions. To overcome this, parties should acknowledge their emotions and effectively manage them to maintain a constructive atmosphere. They can also focus on the future and not the past, their interests instead of positions. A skilled mediator can guide you to focus on the issues at hand and to see the true value of a settlement.
Lack of Commitment
The final challenge in employment mediation is when one or both parties are not committed to participating in the process in good faith, thereby hindering progress. The parties should set clear, achievable goals to remain committed to achieving a resolution through mediation. They should consider the true and full benefits of reaching an agreement through mediation, such as avoiding the uncertainties of litigation, cost- saving, and preserving working relationships.
Contact an Experienced Employment Mediator in San Diego, CA Today
Employment mediation offers an opportunity to creatively resolve workplace disputes in ways that litigation may not. Although you may face a few challenges during the mediation process, there are many ways of overcoming them and crafting unique remedies to your workplace conflicts. If you are involved in a workplace dispute in San Diego County, do not hesitate to contact the experienced employment mediator at Blue Sky Mediation Center at 760.454.7277 or online to learn how mediation can benefit you.