Google the word mediation and you’ll be offered around 52 million results. (If you get 138 million you’ve probably made a common mistake and added an extra ‘t’ and got meditation!) So there is plenty of material out there in the online universe to help you understand the world of mediation. Luckily for you I’ve done some searching already and have come up with a list of top online resources for anyone wanting some insight into mediation – and they are all free! Of course mediation covers a wide spectrum from Kofi Annan attempting to resolve international disputes to divorcing couples trying to separate amicably. As my personal focus is workplace mediation, most of the ones I’ve picked concentrate on this area. The first two however are excellent no matter what area of mediation you are interested in. So here are my ‘Six of the Best’:
Pattie Porter is a conflict resolution expert who has created her own weekly radio show on Blog Talk Radio. Each week she interviews a guest on their latest book, piece of research or thinking around their specialist area of conflict management. There are some excellent tools, strategies and resources to help listeners learn how to manage conflict constructively. Pattie started back in 2009 so now there are well over 100 shows to listen to, all available either via her website or as podcasts downloadable direct from iTunes. My personal favourite is Pattie’s own Top 10 Strategies for Constructive Conflict Engagement (Oct 12, 2011).
If ever you want to show someone how mediation works in a simple light-hearted way then I can thoroughly recommend this video animation. The Veterans Association in the US have taken the classic tale of conflict between the Three Little Pigs (named Elmer, Jiggs and Curly in this version!) and The Big Bad Wolf. Given the ongoing issues of huffing and puffing, blowing down houses and alleged vegetable stealing by their neighbour the Little Pigs request mediation and the Big Bad Wolf agrees. Wise Old Owl is engaged as the mediator. He listens to both sides and works with them to understand interests, generate solutions and come up with an agreement they are all happy with. There’s a great little twist at the end when Hansel and Gretel appear in the story – but I’ll leave you to find out how that fits in.
This guide should be the starting point for any employer thinking about using mediation in the workplace. It has been produced jointly by ACAS and the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development (CIPD). The original (Mediation: An Employers Guide) was published in 2008 but this latest version, published in February 2013, is an excellent update. It incorporates findings from several pieces of ACAS research carried out over the past few years and features examples from organisations using mediation. The booklet gives clear sensible guidance on setting up a workplace mediation scheme, considering when mediation can be used, and benefits etc. Case studies illustrate how mediation is being used in various ways, nearly all examples are from larger public sector organisations. This is probably reflective of the current situation that smaller companies and the private sector have not been as quick as the public sector to appreciate fully the value of mediation.
Whilst the ACAS / CIPD guide above gives examples of organisations using mediation, it doesn’t go into any depth on mediation schemes. This article however is a true case study, giving a detailed account of the internal mediation scheme set up by East Sussex County Council in 2008. It covers the original thinking on why the scheme was set up, the business case, finding a supplier, managing stakeholders and a full description on how the scheme functions. What marks this case study out is that it gives statistical evidence to show how the scheme has benefitted the organisation. For instance, the council had calculated that each grievance was costing them £18,000 which reduced to £2,400 when using mediation. The article was written in 2009, not much more than a year after the scheme started, but since then the scheme has gone from strength to strength. The scheme success was recognised when ESCC won the Personnel Today Award for Innovation in Dispute Resolution in 2012.
Describing a mediation process is no substitute for seeing mediation in action and this video from ACAS / CIPD is an excellent resource to help anyone understand what actually happens. I’ve shown it many times when presenting to HR teams and it is always appreciated as well as raising a few laughs! A full mediation can take a day but this video lasts just 24 minutes and captures key moments from the mediation. It is a typical workplace scenario based on a real-life case. A manager and one of his team members, played by professional actors, are not getting on due to clashing personalities and communication problems. The mediator works with them to identify issues and generate solutions to help them work effectively together. Helpfully there is also a Word version transcript that can be downloaded.
It is at least presumptuous if not somewhat arrogant to put my own newsletter in this list of top online resources, but it is my blog so I guess I am allowed to be indulgent! I produce this newsletter every couple of months and pick out interesting recent news articles that relate to the world of mediation. I link to the original article but also give my own take on the article content. Last month’s newsletter highlighted yet another ‘did it need to go that far’ tribunal case, plus some thoughts on how mediation may help employees return to work when they are suffering from stress.
So those are six of my favourites. If you know of a great online resource do drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and maybe there will be enough for another blog article!
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