1. When is Mediation Appropriate?

Mediation may be appropriate when:

  • When communication has, or is at risk of, breaking down;
  • The complaint is making it increasingly difficult for the maintenance of a professional relationship;
  • Parties to the dispute are experiencing difficulties in listening to the others perspective of the dispute;
  • When staff involved are finding it increasingly stressful when dealing with the complainant;
  • Parties in a dispute may welcome the introduction of an impartial third party particularly when there no clear path to resolution;
  • When there is an ongoing relationship and the complaint has led to loss of trust;
  • When the intervention of a trained and neutral person is likely to aid communication towards a satisfactory outcome, acceptable for all parties.

2. Why Mediation Works

The mediation provides a safe and confidential environment for the parties to:

  • Express their concerns;
  • Clarify misunderstandings and assumptions;
  • Correct misconceptions;
  • Identify and explore options to move the dispute on;
  • Increase their understanding of what has happened;
  • Enable parties to acknowledge the past and seek realistic solutions;
  • Empower them to negotiate their own solutions.

3. How Mediation Works

The mediation process provides a flexible approach with the parties consulted at each stage, so that no decisions are made without their agreement.

Initially the mediator will see each party individually with the aim of enabling them to express their view of what has occurred, how this has affected them and what they need to happen in order to bring the complaint to a satisfactory conclusion. Once these initial meetings have taken place, there are a variety of options available. Often the parties are willing to attend a joint meeting thereby providing the opportunity to directly hear other perceptions of the problems.

Sometimes there are reasons that the parties prefer not to meet and in these situations the mediator can act as a go-between, usually referred to as “shuttle mediation”. A further option may be written communication, which can aid clarification or acknowledgement of what has happened. If required, support and guidance can be given by the mediator in writing.

Mediation provides a high level of disputant involvement which is often apparent through the parties accepting increased responsibility during the negotiations. The participants decide what is agreed with the result that most resolutions are adhered to. Mediation empowers the parties, placing their needs at the centre of the dispute. Solutions are not imposed by the mediator but support the parties which in turn can rebuild trust and confidence within the professional relationship.

4. When to Mediate

Mediation can be introduced at any stage of a complaint. The timing of the referral can be an important factor in determining the success of mediation. Mediation Services encourage informal discussions prior to referral so that the appropriateness of mediation can be assessed. Early referral is encouraged before the parties’ positions are too polarised. The early involvement of mediation will result in a reduction in time invested in the complaint by the Complaint Manager thus resulting in reduced financial cost to the organisation.