I’m really looking forward to making a presentation this week with David Whincup of Squire Patton Boggs over at Debenhams Ottaway solicitors in St Albans. Our subject will be “Getting the best outcome in mediation for your client”.

When workplace relationships break down, mediation may be the best option yet carries with it a perception of risk – a fear that when employees in dispute get together, the result can only be explosive rather than constructive. And yet figures from Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) show us that 85% of mediations result in settlement or significant progress, with the resolution of cases through mediation saving $1.6bn a year.

To some extent, an initial reticence to turn to mediation is understandable – conflicts between warring employees are easy to ignore in the face of daily pressures. So perhaps it’s better to look at mediation in a different way. It affords the opportunity to transform a relationship in a wholly positive way, just as coaching unlocks the potential in an individual. Let’s remember what mediation is: it is voluntary, confidential, less entrenched than formal processes and with a focus on solutions. And let’s remember what mediation brings: it is a flexible process which allows a neutral person to assist parties towards a negotiated agreement. It is the parties in control of the decision to settle and its terms and because solutions are agreed not imposed, the chances are that they will.

Even those reluctant to embrace the positive impact of mediation should consider the consequences of doing nothing. Consider how conflict impacts the bottom line – we all know that broken workplace relationships mean decreasing rates of productivity, engagement and wellbeing, followed sharply by increases in workplace absence and recruitment costs.

Too many businesses shy away from mediation because they fear what they may lose. Perhaps they should consider instead what they may gain.

Caroline Sheridan

Sheridan Resolutions