Lots of factors can strain staff relations. A clash in personalities. Communication issues. Bullying. The list goes on…
If a working relationship is on the rocks, you don’t have to jump straight to disciplinary action. First, try mediation.
Follow these steps and you could cancel out a costly tribunal case…
What is workplace mediation?
You can use mediation to mend staff relationships. It’s not a formal process. A mediator is a neutral person that won’t take sides. They’ll lead meetings with your staff and help them overcome their issues. The end goal is to find a way to move forward that suits everyone.
Why use mediation?
Staff are more likely to cooperate with mediation because it’s confidential. A mediator can’t disclose any information staff share with them in private without consent. And a tribunal can’t use anything staff say in mediation as evidence against them.
Mediation is also flexible. You can adapt it to meet your needs. There’s no one set way of carrying out mediation. Find what works for you and your staff. If something doesn’t work, try something else.
You can use mediation at any stage of a dispute – but the earlier the better. If you start mediation early, there’s less chance the dispute will reach a disciplinary or tribunal stage.
Need Face2Face HR support?
A HR expert will visit your workplace and carry out a mediation on your behalf.
Before you start a mediation…
Before you consider mediation, pull your disputing staff aside for a chat. Sometimes, informally addressing the issue will nip the problem in the bud. If the problem continues or is more serious, start the mediation process.
1. Choose a mediator
Think about who to choose as your mediator. They need to be impartial and readily available.
You can train staff to act as mediators internally. But this might not be a suitable option for all businesses. Staff can be biased. Plus, they’ll need to take time out of work to mediate. And a mediation scheme can be expensive and unnecessary if you don’t use it very often.
Or, you can get an external mediator to visit your workplace at a time that suits you. If you’re a smaller business, this will be cheaper, less risky, and less time-consuming. They won’t already know anyone involved – so there’s no risk of bias.
You might also choose to appoint an external mediator if:
- the internal mediator has a conflict of interest – the mediator might change how they behave so they don't compromise their working relationship with the staff involved
- the internal mediator doesn’t have the availability – your staff may not have the availability between their work and personal life to devote time to a case
- the issue is sensitive – mediation has to be confidential but this can never fully be the case if the mediator is a fellow worker
- the internal mediator doesn’t have the skills – with minimal training and experience, they might not feel confident to mediate serious disputes
2. Arrange a one-to-one meeting
Once you’ve chosen your mediator, they’ll meet with your staff one-to-one. Your staff can then tell the mediator their side of the story. This helps the mediator understand what everyone wants to achieve from the mediation process.
This one-to-one should only involve the mediator and worker.
3. Bring all parties together
After the one-to-one meetings, your mediator will bring everyone together for a joint meeting. They’ll invite your staff to share their sides without interruption. Then, they’ll summarise the main points of disagreement.
After identifying the main issues, the mediator will encourage staff to communicate. The aim of this is to get them to understand where the other is coming from. If there’s more understanding, there’s more chance of triggering a change in mindsets and problem-solving.
Your mediator will support your employees as they work through their issues together. They’ll be there to make sure that solutions and agreements are workable and will make a record of everything.
4. If staff reach an agreement…
If all parties come to an agreement, the mediator will end the meeting. They’ll then provide a copy of the agreement to everyone involved and explain what everyone needs to do to comply.
5. If staff don’t reach an agreement…
Your staff might not reach an agreement through mediation. If mediation doesn’t solve the issue, you may have to escalate to a grievance or disciplinary process.
A working relationship may be beyond repair. Maybe there isn’t a way forward. If you feel ending employment may be the only option, you’d need to have a fair reason behind it – or you may face an unfair dismissal claim.
For it to be fair, the conflict between colleagues would need to be seriously disrupting your business. You’d also need to show that you took reasonable steps to solve the issue first.
Need a mediator to fix staff relations?
If you have a staff dispute on your hands, you need to deal with it quickly or risk facing a costly tribunal claim. It’s best to use mediation as early as possible - before it’s too late.
You might not feel confident facilitating a mediation yourself. Or, you may not have the time or expenses to spare to train up staff. With Peninsula Face2Face, your HR experts will handle those tough conversations for you.
Mediation might not be enough to repair staff relations. But don't worry. Your advisers will lead HR investigations, disciplinaries, dismissals, and more. So, you stay safe from legal risk.
Call now on 0800 028 2420 to book your free consultation.