Mediation at Work: Definition & Explanation

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  • 0:03 Definition
  • 0:25 Mediation Process at Work
  • 1:27 Steps to Take
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Disputes are common in the workplace, and mediation is a means to resolve them in a reasonable manner. In this lesson, you'll have the opportunity to learn about mediation.


Mediation is a form of dispute resolution where the disputing parties utilize a neutral mediator who helps to guide them to a solution. The mediator does not have any power to force a resolution or to enforce an agreement, but rather helps facilitate negotiations between the parties and provides an objective viewpoint that may help parties reach an agreement.

Mediation Process at Work

Mediation in the workplace can be a fairly informal affair where co-workers are used as a mediator or more formal where an outside professional mediator is brought in. The approach used will depend on the nature of the conflict, the parties to the conflict, and the potential damage the conflict can cause to the organization. A dispute between two supervisors regarding the scheduling of mandatory weekend shifts can almost certainly be handled informally. On the other hand, a dispute between the two owners of a small business about operations may be so damaging to the business that the expense of a professional mediator is warranted.

The process of mediation is basically the same whether a co-worker serves as the mediator or a professional mediator is brought in. The only real difference may be a heightened level of formality and a structured mediation process. Informal mediation through the use of co-workers may use some, all, or none of the formal structure, though it should be noted that the formal structure exists because it works.

For mediation to work successfully, there are many steps that need to be taken:

  • First, there is the first party contact, where a professional mediator will start the mediation process by contacting one of the parties - usually the party that initiated the request for mediation. The mediator will listen to the party's description of the dispute, the primary issues, and the options that the party feels may resolve the dispute. Sometimes a mediator may determine mediation is not appropriate and will refer the party to an alternative form of dispute resolution. If the mediator is a co-worker, for example, she may refer her co-worker to her supervisor to resolve the dispute.

  • Then there is the second party contact, where the mediator will contact the second party and address the same issues. If both parties agree to mediate, then the mediator will go to the next step.

  • Lastly, there is scheduling a fact-to-face meeting, where the meeting is held in person.

After these steps, mediation procedures begin:

In the mediator's opening statement, the mediator will explain the roles and responsibilities of each party. The mediator will also explain any rules that will apply to the mediation, such as time limits and the requirement of confidentiality.

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