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Mediation from the perspective of the party; new research from iRowe

Mediation 21st June 2013

While you may think you have never rushed parties to an agreement that isn’t suitable or sustainable, this research shows that parties may think otherwise. For the first time, the experience of parties has been listened to, and it has brought to light the gap between mediators and parties take on mediation. CMP believes this is valuable research and was pleased to invite parties to our mediation service to be part of the study. We were confident that given our consistently high feedback scores we would offer a benchmark of good practice and quality.

The Good

iRowe’s research highlights some positive attitudes towards mediation, the most important being that “almost all respondents would recommend mediation to a colleague”. This shows that whatever the outcome parties still value what mediation offers.  Also parties who came to mediation due to un fair or mis-treatment found the process to be both “cathartic and empowering”.  Simply the chance to have their story heard was enough to create a lasting positive view of mediation.

The Bad

However, the good news ends there. The research shows that organisations and mediators alike are too often failing the parties. The cases that were used in the research were complex, entrenched and emotional situations. Therefore it is arguably insensitive to not only make the parties coordinate their own meetings, but on some occasions eat lunch together! Given the confidentiality boundaries of the process, a high number of respondents felt isolated and unsupported. This was compounded by a lack of follow up to the mediation leading to agreements not being sustained long term.

The Downright ugly

The research explores the agreements themselves and found that half of them were not “ultimately sustained”. This could be due to the parties themselves being forced into mediation due to pressure from their employer. Not only that, parties often felt that external mediators in particular, rushed the process to get an agreement. Organisations had commissioned mediation as a “last resort”, this meant that parties who had been off sick due to stress had to take part in mediation which, in itself, is a very emotional, mentally challenging task.

So, if you are an organisation offering mediation, be flexible in your approach. Offer before and after care for the parties, use mediation as an early intervention not a last resort, and don’t expect mediation to work in only a few hours. Do it properly, and you will benefit from long-term, strong and sustainable workplace relationships.