Workplace Mediation FAQs

Is mediation really voluntary?

Being able to get along with your work colleagues, finding ways around challenging situations is important for a productive workplace and for creating spaces where people feel comfortable and engaged at work. While mediation is a voluntary process, it is important that employees recognise the value in engaging in adult-to-adult dialogue, and organisations should strongly encourage their employees to at least try mediation in the first instance. Managers asking employees to take responsibility for disputes, with the support of a trained mediator, is a reasonable request. It will benefit all parties if people in a dispute can enter into the process with some ability to reflect and engage in the mediation.

Do we have to meet in person?

Online and face to face both have positive and negative aspects. Check out with the mediator the expectation about meeting in person. If you are feeling unsure about meeting explore that with the mediator.

Will there be anything on my employee record?

Mediation is a totally confidential process and nothing should be recorded on your employee recorded about the fact that you have used mediation. 

What if I have already made a formal complaint?

Any formal process must be put on hold while mediation is taking place. Different organisations may have different rules about when mediation can be tried, but it is possible to pause a formal process to try mediation. Of course it is best to mediate before getting into a formal process – but it can be done during and after a formal process. However at each stage the formal process must be put on hold. 

There are good reasons for this – you may get different outcomes from a mediation than a formal process, and one may undermine or undo the other. A formal process also works very differently from a mediation, in that a formal procedure will look at evidence, cite witnesses, adopt a win-lose approach, focusing on a problem in order to substantiate a case. Mediation does the opposite – it looks to encourage a win-win approach, it doesn’t look at paperwork or witnesses, We ask people to be prepared to connect as people, not to enter mediation with the intention of dividing themselves with evidence and positions.

What if I am feeling anxious or concerned during the mediation?

Mediation can be an intense experience; many people describe it as worthwhile but challenging, so it very normal to feel anxious or nervous before or during the mediation. Do discuss your concerns with your mediator. If during the mediation you feel like you need a break, just let the mediator know. They will be able to manage the process to allow you some space to recover or manage any anxiety. If things are really too difficult to continue in the same room, the mediator may be able to move to shuttle mediation, where the parties will be in separate rooms and the mediator moves between them. 

How do I request mediation at my work?

Different organisations will have different mechanisms for requesting mediation, but commonly it starts with a request to your senior manager or if that is not appropriate, to HR. Remember that many organisations have informal resolution as part of their Bullying and Harassment or Grievance policies – so this may also be a place to start if you are looking for information on how to access mediation. 

Can I bring a representative?

Different organisations will have different rules about bringing a rep or support person with you, so make sure that you are aware of any specific rules your organisation may have. In general, most mediation services will allow you to bring an additional person to your individual meeting but not to the joint session. This is because, even if they don’t say anything at that meeting, their presence will change the dynamic in the room and make it less likely for parties to feel that they can open up and be honest. If you feel that this will be an issue for you, discuss this with your mediator at your individual meeting.

What if we don’t reach an agreement?

While workplace mediation has an incredibly good success rate (upwards of 90%), it may be possible that parties are not able to reach an agreement. If this does happen, your mediators will work with you to discuss next steps and what you may need to do to move the situation forward. This may require additional discussions outside of the mediation, for example with HR or senior management.

What do I do if my mediation agreement isn’t working?

Most workplace mediation services will provide some form of support following a mediation, so if you feel like your agreement is no longer working, do contact the mediator or mediation service coordinator in the first instance. Here are some tips to help you stay on track:

  • Try and hold the reality that each party is being ‘reasonable and rational’.
  • Stick to what, not why, to avoid making assumptions about other’s behaviour.
  • Show you understand what is important to the other parties, try and acknowledge each other’s feelings and views (without blame or judgement).  
  • Remember that no party wants to hurt/attack/destroy the other so try and identify the good intention behind what each other has said. 
Is there any other links/references I can access about workplace mediation?

Yes- the CIPD (the professional body for HR and People Development and ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) both have useful resources on workplace mediation: