Mediation services often provide invaluable help in the event of a serious workplace conflict. They allow impartial professionals to hear about the conflict in detail and provide tools for working it out amicably, which helps managers and business leaders stress less. Yet mediation problems can still happen that interfere with timely conflict resolutions. To help you avoid such issues in the future, review the 6 common problems below and what can be done about them.

1) One Party Does Not Show Up

When coworkers know that tomorrow is “mediation day,” it is not uncommon for both of them to feel nervous. They might be completely unfamiliar with the mediation process or are concerned the session will go badly and make them look like the 100% guilty party. As a result, one of the coworkers might suddenly “fall ill” and call in sick. If one party is not present, the mediation session obviously cannot happen. This can result in the company getting billed for time and transportation, despite no resolution taking place. There is also the risk of both parties continuing to feel resentful toward each other and creating more workplace tension.

To avoid this mediation problem, emphasizing the importance of showing up for the session is essential. Make it clear that this is not an optional meeting and that an objective professional mediator is coming by to help the parties resolve the problem. By making it clear that the meeting is mandatory, “failure to show” issues become unlikely. It also helps to emphasize that resolving the conflict is the main goal, not accusing one party over the other or placing blame. In many cases, both parties might be to blame for the ongoing conflict, even if one coworker “started it.” You can additionally add that if the parties involved want to speak with you before mediation processes begin to discuss their nervous feelings, they are welcome to do so. No matter what you say, your goal should be to ensure both parties feel as good as they possibly can about the mediation session.

2) A Manager Interferes Too Much

Depending on the company, a manager might decide to sit in on the mediation session. Unfortunately, this can be detrimental in two ways: 1) the coworkers in question might not be as forthcoming and 2) the manager might interfere when they should stay silent. Employees can feel like they are “on the spot” and agitated instead of hopeful about resolving the problem. As a result, the issue can go unresolved and all parties might feel increasingly frustrated.

To sidestep this issue, it is important for the mediation session to involve the affected parties and the mediator–and that’s it. No other managers or supervisors should be in the room, as their presence hinders the process. By making it clear that the session is for the coworkers exclusively, the affected parties are more likely to be honest about the conflict. The only time when managers or other business leaders should be involved is when they are part of the conflict. Otherwise, the mediator can provide a detailed report outlining what was discussed and whether a resolution was reached to the managers after the session ends.

3) One or Both Parties Refuse to Settle

Perhaps the most common mediation problem is when one or both parties refuse to move forward. The issue remains unresolved, resulting in more stress and tension. As a result, the mediation session might get extended in the hopes of resolving the problem in the coming days. Unfortunately, one or both parties can leave the first session feeling angrier or more upset than they did previously.

When this occurs, it is important to “take a breather.” The employees should be encouraged to walk outdoors, weather permitting, to breathe fresh air and take time to compose themselves. Once they are ready to resume, both parties will hopefully be committed to resolving the problem for good. If there is still no positive end result, the mediation session should resume a few days later when everyone has had more time to calm down. During this time, consider sending an email saying something like, “I was saddened to learn that the issue was not resolved yesterday afternoon. However, I am hopeful that we can move forward and find a solution that suits everyone. Remember, we are not here to place blame and strive to maintain a healthy work environment. You do not have to get along to work together, but you do have to be civil and respectful. If you have any questions or concerns before the next mediation session, please reach out to me. I am here, as always, to help!”

It is also a good idea for the mediator to make it clear that resolving the issue means compromising. Being able to compromise can prove invaluable in many situations because it often involves rising above the mundane and focusing on what is best for the entire office or other workplaces. There is no shame in compromising unless doing so is detrimental and harmful to one or more individuals.

4) One Party Refuses to Speak to the Other Party

There are times when the coworkers involved are so livid that one refuses to speak to the other. This is obviously a serious conflict resolution hurdle because the said party is acting immaturely and failing to comply with workplace standards. In this instance, the mediator could ask the second party to step out of the room so that they can speak with the first party one-on-one. The first party might be more willing to open up and be honest about the situation with the second party out of the room. Once the mediator determines what the issue is after speaking with both parties, they can request a group session. At this point, it is likely that the parties involved are more willing to resolve the issue and behave in a professional manner. If the issue with one party refusing to speak to the other continues, it could be time to take more drastic measures. For example, if your company has a Human Resources Department, a person from HR could suggest conflict training or related seminars. This might inspire the employees in question to engage and resolve the issue swiftly.

Depending on the nature of the issue, placing the employees in different departments where they do not have to see or speak to one another might be the ultimate solution. It is not ideal, but it prevents firing one or both people. Unless there is a harassment issue at play and terminating someone’s contract is the best recourse, separating the parties might be ideal.

5) Too Many Distractions

The mediation session’s location is important in terms of avoiding distractions. For example, if the session occurs in a meeting or conference room within the main office, the employees and the mediators might be distracted by coworkers passing by or engaging in conversation. Other distractions can include meetings between managers who are in close proximity to the meeting space, mail and various supply arrivals, coffee scents, and food smells.

To avoid these and other distractions, choose a mediation space that is as far away from the main office or other work areas as possible. If you could have the meeting in a room on another floor, such as one where few to no employees work, that is ideal. All conflict resolution meetings, whether they involve a professional mediator or not, should take place in the most private, quiet setting available. Choosing such a location allows the employees and the mediator to fully focus on the issue so that they can work to resolve it in a timely manner. Everyone involved will appreciate the privacy because they won’t feel like they are “putting on a show,” nor will they have to listen to the noise around them.

6) Picking the Wrong Mediator

The right mediator must have experience in and extensive knowledge of conflict resolution. If the individual is a “newbie” to this profession, they might not be able to handle the conflict in question or know what to ask, among other problems. For these reasons and more, it is a good idea to thoroughly vet a mediation company and its members before scheduling the meeting. Those new to conflict resolution strategies can shadow their experienced counterparts until they have a solid idea of how to manage these situations. If you are not sure whether a particular company is the right fit, review any testimonials they have on their website and see if any articles have been written praising their work. You can also look for degrees and certifications indicating credibility and reliability.

Mediation sessions do not have to go smoothly to be successful. As long as everyone remains committed to finding the best solution possible, the meeting will be beneficial to the employees and the team at large.

For more about mediation problems and how to solve them, get in touch with us today! We have the training, knowledge, and experience you want in a de-escalation company and we are here to answer any questions you have!