Workplace conflicts are more common than perceived, with various factors like ego, misunderstandings, differing personalities, and work-related challenges creating an environment of continued tension and stress. As people spend a larger part of their day at work, it is easy for small issues to escalate into a serious conflict. The ensuing environment of discord and negativity results in reduced productivity, absenteeism and loss of talent due to resignations, all of which can be detrimental to the growth of a company.

While Human Resources managers are the ones tasked with the responsibility of having to assist the staff and business through the emotional turmoil of workplace disputes, dealing with disputes are just one of the many tasks each HR personnel has on their plate. It would take extra time and resources for the HR personnel to be able to sit down and handle the dispute, all in a timely manner. This is where mediation, as a specialised and targeted service, can help a business greatly in resolving such unwanted workplace disputes.

Mediation can assist businesses to enhance its workplace reputation by resolving disputes as they arise, thus avoiding costly court procedures and simultaneously preserving relationships that are vital to the business. We share with you four reasons on how having a mediator will benefit your organisation when the need for conflict resolution arises, besides the fact that mediators come from legal backgrounds and qualifications that can only add value to the mediation process.

  1. Mediators understand the perils of litigation

Mediators who are also lawyers know that resolving disputes through litigation can be a lengthy, expensive and stressful process, which can lead to strained relationships and long-term conflict. Hence, keeping in mind the welfare and the preservation of relationships between employees and managers, experienced lawyers often suggest mediation for speedy resolution of workplace conflicts and restoration of amicable relationships. The other downside to engaging in litigation is that it results in a verdict that favours one party over the other, often leaving the losing party with bitterness and resentment whereas mediation results in an agreement that both sides find acceptable.

  1. Mediators possess essential dispute resolution skills

Mediators are trained in dispute resolution and possess essential skills that include good listening and asking the right questions to uncover the core issues behind a conflict. They are also trained in psychology, sociology and philosophy, which gives them innate understanding of human nature. All of the above traits enable mediators to effortlessly get to the root of the problem, understand the perspective of all sides to facilitate discussion that then empowers all parties involved to formulate creative solutions to agree on.

  1. Mediators exhibit emotional intelligence

Being a mediator involves dealing with many different people on a constant basis, which also provides these mediators high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ) that are useful when resolving disputes. Mediators use their emotional intelligence to understand the emotions that influence behaviour, comprehending the feelings of each party including criticisms made in order to address behaviours exhibited by all parties during the negotiation process suitably. This leads to sustainable solutions that have a long-lasting impact and a permanent resolution of the conflict.

  1. Mediators are neutral to the dispute

As an outside party to the dispute at hand, mediators have no vested interest in the business or in the type of outcome that result out of the mediation. Their role as mediators is to quickly separate the problem from the people involved in it, which enables them to take an impartial view of the conflict. By dealing with issues in a quick, convenient and confidential manner, mediators are able to prevent further problems from festering, enabling the business to be minimally affected as a result of a dispute.

When HR managers mediate a conflict, they run the risk of being considered as favouring the company over the employee or vice versa. With a mediator, they can maintain their impartiality and independence from the conflict while helping to resolving it. This also gives the HR managers more time to focus on their other tasks at hand, improving the company’s efficiency overall.

Positive results from workplace mediation – a real life incident

A senior manager was on a long-term sick leave due to chronic stress. She blamed her poor health on ill treatment by her colleagues and wanted her job back, along with compensation for her pending salaries. She refused to communicate with the HR personnel, believing that they were biased and lacked empathy for her situation.

She was on the verge of presenting her case to an industrial tribunal alleging discrimination on account of disability, when a mediator was brought in to resolve the issue. The mediator used his listening skills and emotional intelligence to win her trust and convince her to consider an outside job. The company agreed to pay the complainant her outstanding salaries while she took up a part-time job until she recovered completely. In this case, the mediator was able to resolve the conflict amicably by ensuring the employee received her pending salaries, while the company avoided legal action taken against them. A case pressed against the company in a tribunal would have hurt its reputation, apart from causing further stress and delayed justice to the employee.

Mediators are undeniable assets to companies who strive for a positive work environment. By settling workplace disputes impartially with minimal loss of productivity, goodwill at the workplace is ensured, making for a happier and productive company overall.