Mediation is a voluntary process; sometimes, though, “voluntary” can get a little murky if employers are “strongly recommending” mediation or, in fact, requiring it before other steps can be taken. Ontario, after all, does have “mandatory mediation.” So the question of who decides whether or not a specific issue goes to mediation is not a one-word answer. It could be up to any number of people: to the parties themselves, to the HR staff or to the liaison officer. It could be dependent on policies, or it may not even be mentioned as an option under company policy. The important thing is that all parties recognize that mediation is an option. More important than “who” decides is “when” it happens or gets suggested.
You’ll often find lists of tips for dealing with harassment at work. One that I recently came across advised that we take a “work stress inventory to identify” sources of stress and write a “joy journal to focus on what’s going right.”
The mediation agreement plays a crucial role in the mediation process. It is a way of saying, “This is what we’re all doing here; this is how we have to conduct ourselves; these are the ground rules that we have to agree upon in order to make this work.” What goes into a mediation agreement?
Author Gabrielle Zevin has said, “I have so much paperwork. I’m afraid my paperwork has paperwork.” Most of us can relate. The point of mediation is to create an opportunity for parties to communicate and work towards resolving a conflict. Documentation is a part of it, but paperwork doesn’t have to overshadow everything. Is note-taking simply more paperwork that you have to complete in the mediation process?
Mediation is not an adversarial process. It isn’t, or shouldn’t be, us vs. them. It is a process by which both parties can work to discover their own solutions. A mediator is not an advocate. He/she does not argue the facts for one side or the other; and he/she doesn’t provide legal advice. But what does this mean in terms of the mediation agreement or contract? Can mediators write these agreements?
In mediation, negotiation, and conflict coaching, you run into a wide range of emotions; well, maybe not so wide. People are typically upset, angry, frustrated, and confused. These are relatively temporary emotions based on the situation in which they find themselves. But we also have, according to Dr. Richard Davidson, author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain, emotional styles that are part of our ingrained personalities. These are not transient, but rather part of who we are. They can also be modified according to Dr. Davidson.
You can do some weird things online: there is a site, for instance, that allows you to buy and sell souls. If you need some cash and don’t mind eternal damnation, you might make a few bucks. On the buyer side, you have some pretty good options: Henry Kissinger’s soul is up for bid, as is Bill Gates’. Online, you can launch a career on YouTube, become a wedding officiant, rent a grandmother, husband, family, or puppy, or buy an SU-100 Soviet tank destroyer. Online mediation is tame by comparison. Tame, but is it effective?
The promises of Mediation are myriad – It is faster, cheaper, allows for creative solutions, it can mend relationships as well as settle the legal issues, it allows the parties to expand the pie to fashion Win – Win Solutions, it can deliver meaningful solutions that an imperfect Court system can only try to simulate with money, it can be transformative for the parties – for their lives and for the dispute at hand.
Expecting to go into mediation without coming to some sort of impasse is like going hiking and being surprised the path up the mountain is not paved. If two parties could agree on a solution, they wouldn’t need mediation; it is reasonable to expect that they encounter obstacles, hit roadblocks, and occasionally feel stuck. Temporary stalemates need not derail the entire process or make it unnecessarily difficult or painful. When hiking, you take water, walking sticks, packs, energy snacks, and maybe a Sherpa to carry you the last ¼ mile. When mediating, you depend on the mediator’s tools of the trade.
You have an important meeting in 30 minutes; it takes 20 to drive to work, five to run to your office, and a minute or two to compose yourself so you don’t look like you just did a five-minute run.