In mediation, my purpose is to deliver tranquillity out of trauma. This is a strong statement that reflects the reality of the participants that I see. My area of speciality is workplace mediation; particularly working with conflicted senior teams. The impact of the corrosive toxicity that subsequently seeps through the organisation, can well be imagined.
Workplace Conflict that has persisted over months and, in some cases, years, leaves people traumatised by their experience.
I regard mediation as a therapeutic process. It is my professional responsibility to ensure that it takes place in ‘a safe space ‘for all participants. This requires the venue for our mediation process, to be both neutral for the participants (not part of the estate of the organisation in which they work), and conducive to a professional, but relaxing environment. These aspects assist the diffusion of the state of the participants., from an initial sense of concern and sometimes trepidation, to one of positive engagement with the process and the mediator.
My mediation process includes an ‘icebreaker’ stage before the individual meeting. The principal purpose is to develop authentic rapport between the mediator and the individual participant. There is no discussion of the subject matters of the mediation. The participant is not accompanied by a friend or staff association representative.
The mediator describes their relevant professional background. This includes time as a mediator, a senior leader in the police, and as a detective. The expertise developed when interviewing a range of people, victims, witnesses, and suspects, is very relevant for developing the required level of rapport and is highly relevant for traumatised people.
The participant is asked to describe their previous experiences of mediation. This is vital intelligence for the mediator. It enables the mediator to confirm to them, what a workplace mediation process should look like.
A discussion of the particulars of the individual meeting and the joint meeting follows. This helps put the mind of participants at rest; particularly as to how the challenges of a joint meeting with other participants will be confronted and overcome. The mediator always uses their professional expertise, in relation to Non-Verbal Communication, the tonality of voice, how they speak, what they say, and Active Listening to help develop rapport with the participant. Once the participant advises that they have the necessary trust in confidence in the mediator, in terms of their independence, impartiality, objectivity, and neutrality, then this ‘icebreaker ‘stage is concluded.
Subsequent feedback received at the review stage of the mediation is that the ‘icebreaker ‘is regarded as being critically important for participants. This ensures that when the participant and mediator next meet for the Individual Meeting, they are not meeting as strangers, and have established the required rapport between them.
The Individual Meeting takes place two days after the ‘Icebreaker’ stage. Feedback from participants is that this gap enables them to process challenging matters for themselves, more easily, and feel better able to express themselves, than if they had met the mediator for the first time at an individual meeting.
Watch this illustrative video to understand the process step by step ↴
Originally published on Civil Mediation Council and featured here with author permission.