Workplace and commercial disputes are always ideal candidates for mediation. This is because workplace and commercial disputes, when prolonged, create a stressful work environment and have a negative impact on productivity and smooth functioning of the business. The sooner such disputes are resolved, the better it is for the business and people in it. Mediation provides a quick resolution to the dispute and the process is confidential, which means the public image of the business does not suffer from the dispute. For global enterprises with a strong public reputation, how disputes are managed can be a very sensitive topic.

Mediation is effective for dispute resolution for another critical reason. Taking the matter to court creates strained relations and results in an outcome that may not be favourable to all. Mediation is suitable because all affected people work together to find an outcome, leading to an amicable settlement of the dispute. This re-establishes a conducive work environment and promotes friendly business relationships.

How does mediation ensure procedural fairness in workplace and commercial disputes?

The two basic requirements of procedural fairness in managing a dispute are the right to be heard and the right to have a say in the outcome of a dispute resolution process.

  1. Mediation guarantees the right to be heard

During a mediation session, both sides get an equal opportunity to present their side of the dispute. The mediator acts as a neutral third party who works with all involved to help them identify and express their interests. All people in the dispute get an equal chance to speak in their defence, voice their concerns and define what they expect from the mediation process. The mediator ensures that they are able to speak without any fear of aggression or intimidation. Mediation sets the stage for open communication and free and fair exchange of dialogue between people involved in the dispute.

  1. Mediation guarantees the right to have a say in the outcome

Unlike in a court of law, in mediation, the people involved decide the outcome. They are free to suggest various solutions and the mediator ensures each of these solutions receive due deliberation by all. The solution that both sides find beneficial and agree to is accepted as the outcome of the mediation. The interests and arguments expressed by people involved in the mediation are taken into consideration while deciding the outcome. This ensures everyone is satisfied with the outcome, leading to restoration of friendly relations between all involved in the dispute.

While mediation is often used to resolve family and business disputes, its growing popularity indicates that it is effective even when bigger stakes are involved and the dispute is spread across continents.  For instance, a US based manufacturer of automotive parts concluded an agreement involving a patent license with a European company. Two years later, the US company alleged infringement of its US patents and claimed royalty from the European company. The matter promised to escalate into a multi-million dollar lawsuit. The matter went into mediation and a mediator was brought in to resolve the dispute. The mediation was held for a period of two days during which both companies negotiated on the royalty payment claimed by the American company and discussed revision of terms of license relating to royalty payments in the future. Within the two days, the mediator was able to facilitate a quick (and inexpensive) solution that was determined by and fair to both the companies.

Mediation is a democratic process that empowers people to take responsibility for the dispute and work actively to seek a solution. It improves workplace relationships and lays the foundation for improved business negotiations. Whether an interpersonal dispute between employees within a company or a commercial dispute between two businesses, mediation provides a cost-effective way to resolve the dispute peacefully and restore an environment conducive to the growth of your career or business.