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When is mediation appropriate in the workplace?

Saranne Segal
When is mediation appropriate in the workplace?

"When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail." - Mark Twain

In the context of workplace conflicts, this quote highlights the danger of approaching every issue with a single solution. Conflicts can arise in any workplace, and while some can be resolved with a simple conversation, others require a more nuanced approach. Workplace mediation is one such approach that has gained popularity in recent years as an effective way to resolve disputes in the workplace.

Workplace mediation involves bringing in a neutral third-party mediator to help facilitate a conversation between two or more parties in conflict. The mediator's role is to help the parties communicate effectively, understand each other's perspectives, and find common ground to resolve the issue. The mediator does not make decisions or take sides, but rather facilitates the conversation and helps the parties come to their own resolution.

Resolving workplace conflicts is crucial for a healthy and productive workplace. Unresolved conflicts can lead to decreased morale, decreased productivity, and even legal issues. Addressing conflicts in a timely and effective manner can prevent these negative consequences and improve workplace relationships.

This blog will cover the basics of workplace mediation, including what it is, when it is appropriate, and how it works. We will also explore the benefits of workplace mediation, such as improved communication, increased understanding, and greater job satisfaction. 

By the end of this blog, readers will have a better understanding of workplace mediation and how it can be used to resolve conflicts in a positive and productive manner.

Signs that Mediation is Appropriate

In general, mediation is most suitable when the parties involved are willing to negotiate, have the desire to maintain their relationship, and have a shared interest in resolving the dispute. Other signs that mediation may be appropriate are discussed below.

Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying can take many forms, from verbal to physical abuse. If left unresolved, this type of behaviour can lead to a hostile work environment and lead to long-term repercussions for both employees and employers. With the help of a workplace mediator, those involved in such situations can openly express their feelings and work together towards finding an effective solution.

Sometimes, personality conflicts can arise between two colleagues in the workplace. This can be due to a clash of values, opinions, and beliefs, or simply because two people don’t get along well. In these cases, workplace mediation can help establish better understanding between both parties and provide a safe space for communication and conflict resolution.

Differences in Work Styles or Approaches

Differences in work styles or approaches may lead to disagreements between employees and management. Such disputes often require the assistance of a workplace mediator to ensure that all sides are heard and respected. Through mediation, the parties involved can come to a mutually satisfactory agreement while improving their working relationship.

Disagreements Over Policies or Procedures

If there is a disagreement over existing policies or procedures within the workplace, it is important to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. A workplace mediator can facilitate discussions and ensure that all parties are heard and respected, helping them to reach an amicable resolution.

Conflict Over Job Responsibilities or Expectations

When there is a conflict over job responsibilities or expectations, it is essential to address the issue before it becomes a larger problem. By bringing in a workplace mediator, all parties involved can discuss their concerns and find common ground to reach an acceptable solution. 

Misunderstandings or Miscommunications

Misunderstandings or miscommunications between colleagues can occur from time to time in any workplace. However, if left unresolved, such issues can lead to further tension and disruption in the workplace. By enlisting the services of a workplace mediator, those involved can work together to clarify any misunderstandings and reach a positive outcome.

When Mediation is Not Appropriate

There are situations where mediation may not be the best option. These situations may involve issues that are too complex for mediation to address or cases where one party is unwilling to participate in good faith. Other situations where mediation may not be appropriate include cases involving abuse, power imbalances, or criminal activity.

In such cases, alternative dispute resolution methods, such as litigation or arbitration, may be more suitable. 

It is important to understand when mediation is not appropriate to ensure that the most effective approach is taken to resolve a conflict. Some major points are as follows.

Illegal Behavior or Activity

Workplace mediation is not appropriate when illegal behaviour or activity is present. Mediation is not designed to address criminal conduct or illegal activities. If an employee is engaging in criminal activity or their behaviour violates the law, the organization should take immediate action in accordance with their policies and procedures.

Physical Violence or Threats

Physical violence or threats of violence are never tolerated in the workplace and cannot be addressed through mediation. If physical violence or threats of violence occur, the organization should take immediate action in accordance with its policies and procedures.

Sexual Harassment or Discrimination

Workplace mediation is not appropriate for sexual harassment or discrimination. Mediation should never be used as a way to avoid legal responsibilities or to try to resolve complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination. Organizations should have clear policies and procedures in place that address these issues.

Severe Power Imbalances

Mediation should not be used when there is a severe power imbalance between the parties involved. This can occur when one party has significantly more power than the other, such as a supervisor and their subordinate. In these cases, it can be difficult for the parties to reach an agreement and mediation may not be successful. 

Chronic, Unresolved Conflicts

When conflicts are chronic and unresolved, workplace mediation may not be appropriate. This can be a sign that the underlying issue has not been addressed and mediation may not be successful. It is important to address the underlying issue before attempting mediation. 

The Benefits of Mediation in the Workplace

Improved Communication and Collaboration:

One of the main advantages of workplace mediation is that it promotes open communication and collaboration between parties. During the mediation process, both sides are encouraged to express their perspectives and share their grievances in an open and respectful manner. This helps to foster mutual understanding and respect, resulting in better working relationships between employees. 

Increased Job Satisfaction and Morale:

Workplace mediation can also help to increase job satisfaction and morale among employees. When conflicts are resolved quickly and respectfully through mediation, employees feel empowered and respected in the workplace. This leads to greater job satisfaction and a healthier work environment overall. 

Reduced Stress and Absenteeism:

Workplace mediation can also reduce stress and absenteeism among employees. By resolving conflicts in a timely and respectful manner, employees can avoid stressful situations in the workplace and focus on their job duties without feeling overwhelmed. This helps to reduce stress levels, which in turn leads to less absenteeism. 

Preservation of Work Relationships:

Finally, workplace mediation can help to preserve work relationships between employees. Through mediation, both sides have the opportunity to express their grievances and come to an agreement that is mutually beneficial. This helps to foster understanding and respect between employees, leading to more productive working relationships. 

Legal Protection and Risk Management:

In addition to the aforementioned benefits of workplace mediation, it can also provide legal protection and risk management for employers. Through the mediation process, employers can ensure that all applicable laws are being followed and that any disputes are handled in accordance with the law. This provides greater legal protection for employers, helping them to minimize potential risks associated with workplace disputes. 


Workplace mediation is a vital process that can help organizations resolve conflicts effectively and improve employee morale and productivity. By providing a safe space for employees to communicate and collaborate, mediation can help prevent the escalation of conflicts and minimize the risk of litigation.

To determine when mediation is appropriate in the workplace, it is crucial to consider the nature and severity of the conflict, the parties involved, and the desired outcome. Mediation is most effective when both parties are willing to participate in good faith and are committed to finding a mutually acceptable solution.

However, mediation may not be appropriate in all situations, such as cases involving violence, harassment, or discrimination, which require immediate intervention and legal action. In such cases, it is essential to seek professional help from HR or legal experts.

Saranne Segal
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