Conflict is a normal, oftentimes unavoidable part of life. While some conflicts may "go away" on their own, major disputes generally do not and therefore require that we take responsibility for their resolution. In the workplace, conflict can be especially troublesome as it can act to compromise individual relationships and limit group productivity.
Mediation is an informal resolution process in which disputing parties are assisted with opening communication lines and discussing ways of resolving their conflict. The process is voluntary and confidential and may make the need for more formal processes unnecessary. No written complaint is required. However, if you do have a formal complaint in process, mediation may be used as an alternate means to achieve relief. In such situations, the grievance "clock" is stopped to allow for completion of mediation. Should the grievant's concerns not be resolved through mediation the grievance process can be resumed, generally without penalty for time spent in mediation.
Mediation is ...
- Voluntary - It's your choice whether or not to participate. Both parties must agree that it's appropriate.
- Informal - A written complaint is not required to participate in mediation.
- Impartial - Trained mediators are assigned from a pool of volunteers, staff, faculty and students.
- Neutral - There's no judgment or ruling made in mediation. The focus is on understanding the issues involved in the conflict and reaching agreement on how best to resolve these.
- Confidential - Information discussed in the mediation process is not shared publicly and, except for health or safety concerns, cannot be used in other areas unless agreed to by all parties.
- No cost - All services are free.
Phone: (916) 734-5335
Fax: (916) 731-7259
Mediation is encouraged as an alternative to more formal grievance processes. Mediation "stops the clock" on grievance matters. Should you decide to use mediation and the process is unable to resolve your concern(s), you may continue to exercise your rights through the formal grievance process; in other words, you don’t relinquish your grievance rights when you take up mediation.
- Mediation is requested by one or both parties (or a supervisor).
- The parties are contacted to confirm that they agree to mediation.
- An intake meeting is held with each party to identify respective issues.
- The parties meet with a mediator to discuss their concerns and attempt resolution. Such sessions typically take from 1.5 to 3.0 hours.
- If the parties mutually agree, a written agreement listing the specifics of the resolution is developed and signed by the parties. Such agreements may not alter existing policies or union contracts.
The Mediator ...
Listens to the viewpoint of both parties and asks questions in order to clarify the nature of the conflict.
Helps re-establish communication channels so that both parties can share their concerns and better understand the issues of the other.
Helps parties put their dispute in clear and concise terms so that resolution options can be discussed and agreed upon.
The Mediator does not ...
- Make decisions for people
- Decide who is "right" or "wrong" (as would a judge or arbitrator).
- Determine guilt or innocence
- Seek out testimony from additional witnesses.
- Arrange for "settlement" or resolution.
The mediator may be called upon to provide informal advice, make referrals (to a more appropriate resource) or simply act as a good listener and source of support. If required, mediators are available to meet at the employee's worksite or designated personnel service areas.
- Disputes can be dealt with promptly.
- Conflict can be addressed before it escalates.
- Promotes "win-win" versus "win-lose" situations.
- Participants have control over the process and its outcome(s).
Because of their roles as oversight officers within the University, managers and supervisors are in a unique position to address conflict in the workplace. As any seasoned supervisor knows, some disputes are amenable to simple discussion; others may require more intensive kinds of intervention. The following tips document, Managing Conflict in the Workplace, summarizes what managers and supervisors can do in their own respective areas to resolve disputes among parties.