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Mediation In The Workplace Case Study

Workplace Mediation – Case Study From 2017

Seamus Sweeney was recently asked to act as mediator in a workplace mediation for a dispute between a senior level employee and her former employer, a charitable organisation.

The employee, who had been made redundant, maintained that she had been forced out of her role, discriminated against because of age and not afforded an opportunity to secure a senior position, the duties of which she maintained she had been undertaking for some time. The employee had submitted a grievance against the chairperson of the organisation. The employer believed that it had treated her fairly and followed a procedure which was fair and non-discriminatory.

The employer requested workplace mediation in an attempt to resolve what was building up to a potentially acrimonious, labour-intensive and disruptive dispute in the employment tribunal.

Mediatelegal arranged a one day workplace mediation by liaising with the employer and employee. Mediatelegal provided an overview of the mediation process, and answered queries from both parties. We then provided the parties with options for how the mediation could be run, and dates of availability for the mediator selected by the parties, Seamus Sweeney.

The Workplace Mediation Process

The mediation started at 9am. There were three representatives from the employer’s side and the employee was accompanied by two friends. Seamus Sweeney met with the parties separately to ask whether they would be prepared to begin the day in the same room. Everyone agreed and the first session was used as an opportunity to set the scene for the day, to enable Seamus to assess and understand the chemistry and relationships, and to enable each party to address the room should they wish to do so.

Seamus then met with each party separately, beginning with the employee so as to fully understand those matters which were of importance to the employee. He then met with the employer’s representatives who set out their understanding of the issues and their position.

It became clear to Seamus that the immediate problem confronting the parties (imminent litigation following a redundancy dismissal) had more deep-rooted causes than a recent redundancy exercise. The employee had been a long-serving employee who felt undervalued for some time whereas the employer believed the employee had been valued and treated fairly.

The workplace mediation was successful. Seamus helped to resolve the dispute before it became an employment tribunal claim thus avoiding the associated costs, time-expenditure and stress which such proceedings entail. The process took all day and at one stage it looked as though they might not reach agreement.

However, Seamus believed that an agreement was possible, and ultimately the parties each saw that this was in their respective best interests. The employer was able to move on with its business without disruption and the employee was able to move on with the sense that her contribution was recognised.

Observations

Seamus has extensive experience of employment disputes and understands the emotions, the nuances, and the business issues which prevail in these situations.

Employment litigation can be an intensely forensic exercise, which is costly and time-consuming. It is also an area in which the outcome of disputes is especially difficult to predict. Employers and employees should always consider alternative means of resolving disputes, and an external workplace mediator offers the best opportunity for parties to come to considered agreement whether they are in an on-going relationship or where employment has terminated.


You can download Seamus Sweeney’s mediation CV here. To book Seamus to mediate your dispute, contact us by email or telephone on 01513633972.

For information on workplace mediation, visit our Workplace Mediation page.

Tagged with: workplace mediation
Posted in Workplace Mediation

More and more people in the Australian business world are hearing about the uses of workplace mediation as a useful alternative to litigation in resolving disputes between employees, between employees and management, or between the company and its customers. Some companies have even instituted the use of mediation as a company policy, to be used as a first line of defence in the hopes that conflicts will not escalate into costly, and at times damaging court cases.

Mediation can solve workplace conflicts?

Recently, I was asked to be involved in a workplace mediation.  There was a workplace conflict between a long standing employee and a new employee who was a foreign worker.

The new employee had alleged that he had been the victim of racial vilification by his colleague.  The colleague made some passing jokes in the tearoom about race and gender.

After speaking with both employees individually, it was deemed that the Employee was made the alleged remarks did this without intent to harm.  The employee was mortified and embarrassed that his ‘simple joke’ could be construed into a racial attack.

Both employees and their management were wanting to resolve this matter swiftly and professionally.  I advised that the two people in conflict sit down together and settle their differences. If given a chance, the proper environment, and reasonable motivation most conflicts can be solved.

  • The chance was an offer to use a mediator’s (my) help to talk to each other.
  • The proper environment was a neutral, safe, confidential area with no outside distractions or other employee visibility.
  • The motivation was to resolve the conflict without escalating the conflict to another arena (such as a courtroom). In which all parties might be seriously affected.

Thankfully, this workplace mediation went well. Both employees were given a chance to speak and listen respectfully of each other. There was an apology offered and gratefully accepted. Management offered counselling for both employees (politely declined, but appreciated). Both employees shook hands and it ended there. A good outcome.

Why does it work?

Workplace conflict can be resolved successfully using mediation.  So why does it work?

  • It enables people to hear each other and work out their own disputes in a safe environment with neutral assistance.
  • De-emphasise guilt and punishment but promote understanding by creating a plan for how people will get along in the future.
  • Most people in conflict are motivated to reach an agreement without taking the fight to another level (such as court).
  • Resolving conflict in a court generally comes at a greater cost, animosity, damaged relationships and the risk of further trauma to employees.

Mediation in the workplace deals with conflict in the most sensible and effective way, while being private and inexpensive.

That’s just good business.

Olivia Bates

Olivia is an HR professional with over 14 years industry experience. She brings a great wealth of experience to the HR Central team and focuses mainly on supporting our vastly growing Regional Victoria client base. Olivia dedicates most of her time helping clients with: * Organisational development and change management * Employee engagement and coaching including work with Leadership teams from Geelong Football Club * Employee relations and dispute resolution * Leadership development and youth empowerment. This program is aimed at disengaged people and provides skills in job seeking, well-being, finances, personal presentation and career planning * HR Products developed include The Ops Box – a highly visual HR risk management tool housing essential policies and procedures for any workplace * Project and Grant management experience * Contract and Tender development & management * Permanent and executive recruitment. Olivia has placed candidates across a multitude of industries with a strong focus on the mining sector Australia wide.

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