Here are answers to some of my clients’ frequently asked questions:
Why bother addressing conflict at work?
If managed well, workplace conflict is a fabulous opportunity…for positive change, idea generation, improvement, and repair. Conflict left unresolved, however, is destructive. It’s unhealthy. It’s costly. The costs of unresolved conflict in the workplace may include:
- increased stress and/or anxiety
- impaired mental wellness, lowered sense of well being
- presenteeism (distracted by the conflict, not actually working)
- hampered quality and quantity of productivity
- time wasted (worrying about or talking about the conflict with other employees)
- communication breakdown leads to bad decisions
- employees quit (associated cost of employee turnover)
- low morale
- interpersonal and/ or team dysfunction
- drain on human resources and/or managerial resources
- cognitive impairment (eg inability to focus on task at hand, impaired decision-making and problem-solving abilities)
Workplace conflict typically doesn’t just go away on its own. In fact, conflict left unresolved tends to grow and worsen over time, sucking up energy and productivity as anger, hurts, and resentments tally up. Ignoring conflict can cause many problems for the parties directly involved in the issues AND for the bystanders and onlookers impacted by the unresolved conflict. Unresolved conflict can spill over into areas beyond the disputing employees, impacting teammates, other colleagues, and sometimes even departmental reputation. Ignoring the conflict can also create a culture of tolerance and indifference–a byproduct that creates tension and other far-reaching negative consequences. Resolving workplace conflict, on the other hand, is shown to correlate with reduced stress and anxiety, greater happiness and satisfaction, increased morale and productivity, a greater sense of mental well-being, improved work relationships, and even better sleep. Who wouldn’t want that?!
Why hire a Mediator?
When it comes to resolving workplace conflict, the reality is it’s not always possible to effectively work through employee conflict with company in-house resources. Sometimes it is prudent to hire an outside professional third party, a Mediator like me, to work with employees to facilitate the resolution process and to encourage open communication and accountability. I often see cases in which the Human Resources (HR) professional or Manager is presented with a troubling employee conflict situation, yet the HR professional or Manager may not be the person best aligned to handle the situation. Here’s why:
- Sometimes the HR professional or Manager is concerned that he/she will not have the desired impact on the situation. The HR professional or Manager may not have the tools, resources, time, impartiality, experience, or confidence level necessary to effectively facilitate the conflict resolution process between the employees.
- Resolution can only happen when the employee(s) feels safe to open up about the problem! It’s common for an employee(s) to feel apprehensive or uncomfortable speaking candidly to the HR person or the Manager about their troubling situation. The employee(s) might feel embarrassed, vulnerable, or maybe even concerned that (whether it’s reality or simply his/her perception) what they say will end up in their employee file and harm them in some way.
What kind of conflict do you help with?
I work with employees, managers and senior leaders. The conflict scenarios these folks may experience are as unique as the individual themselves. Sometimes conflicts present as being about workload, or about competing goals, personality clashes, perceived incivility, or disagreements over how one should behave in the workplace. Regardless of the way the conflict presents itself, at its core conflict is usually about individual needs not being met, being threatened, or being obstructed in some way. As a Mediator, I work with employees to uncover and fully understand each employee’s needs–and to discover shared needs that are vital for building mutually agreeable solutions.
What is an “ethical and respectful mediation environment“?
An ethical and respectful mediation environment is one in which each mediation participation feels safe to speak up, to listen, to share their differing opinion, while being treated with dignity and professional courtesy. An ethical and respectful mediation environment is a collaborative effort involving all parties engaged in the mediation process, including the Mediator and each disputant. Essentially we create this environment by being trustworthy, saying what we mean, meaning what we say, and doing what we said we would ~ including keeping up our commitments to ground rules and confidentiality.
I’m really nice, but my coworker is an idiot. In mediation, who’s side will you be on?
As a Mediator I am never in favour of, or biased toward, any particular person. I am an objective third party engaged to help two people work through the issues impacting them. In mediation, each of you may see the situation differently, for good reason—and that’s ok. I am not there to judge but rather to listen to you both carefully, and to always seek to understand. I take my ethical responsibility seriously, and as such I consistently extend professional respect and courtesy to every employee I work with, and I ensure a psychologically safe and fair environment where each party feels safe to participate.
How long will employee mediation take?
There is no “one-size-fits-all-conflicts” answer to this question. While it is always my goal to work through the mediation process in a focused and efficient manner, mediation is not a quick process; and frankly mediation outcomes are not likely to be effective and sustainable for participants if the process is hurried. The length of time in mediation depends on many human factors as well as on the severity and nature of the conflict. A conflict that has lasted years for example, may take longer to work through than a conflict that is fairly short lived; as it is often the case that, the longer a conflict has gone on the more complex it is. I usually have a good sense of how long mediation will take once I meet privately with each participant initially. As a guideline, I can advise that I typically meet with clients for 1 session alone and then multiple sessions (eg 2 to 4) together over a period of time. Sessions are ideally 3 hours in length.
What do you mean when you say mediation is “confidential“?
Honouring confidentiality is absolutely vital to ensuring full participation in the mediation process. Confidential means I will not be sharing what you tell me (eg your responses, your quotes) to anyone outside our mediation sessions without your expressed consent. And I insist upon that same commitment to confidentiality from participants. In other words, what happens in mediation stays in mediation.
What are your fees?
I charge competitive hourly rates for my consulting services such as assessment, employee mediation, and coaching, as well as full-day and half-day rates for my workshops. Let’s chat! I’d like the opportunity to understand your specific project or concern, and to explore if my knowledge and specialty is what you are looking for to meet your needs. And I will be happy to discuss my consultancy fee structure with you directly.