Is it Too Late to Mediate After a Grievance is Filed?

Whether caused by the actions of a single employee, or interpersonal issues between staff, grievances and disciplinary issues are, sadly, a part of life at most companies. In an earlier blog we looked at how mediation can be a useful and cost-effective approach to solving these issues. What surprises many people, though, is that mediation is useful throughout the disciplinary process, not just before formal proceedings begin.

Formal disciplinary proceedings have a high cost, in time and money, but also in the fact that they can leave staff and management harbouring bad feelings. By seeking a resolution that all parties agree to, mediation helps to defuse ongoing tensions, while taking less time and costing less money than formal proceedings. But how do you use mediation after an employee has filed a grievance, or a manager has begun the disciplinary process? Here’s a few things to bear in mind.

  • The earlier the better

Mediation can be introduced at any stage of the disciplinary process, but it does tend to be more effective if it is used early on, before parties become deeply entrenched in their positions, or relationships become too badly damaged.

  • The formal process is still there

Because mediation is a stand-alone process, if it does not work you can still go back to the formal disciplinary or grievance procedure should it fail to reach a solution. It’s important to make sure that everybody understands this, so that participants don’t feel that the issue has been “swept under the carpet”, or that they have been railroaded into accepting an outcome.

  • Mediation is voluntary

The whole process of mediation is based on finding a solution that everybody agrees to. This means that it is by its very nature a voluntary process. While it may be a good idea to include an attempt at mediation in your grievance process, it cannot be forced on anybody, and parties still have a right to use the formal procedure.

  • Mediation requires good faith

In order to be effective, mediation requires that everybody approach the process willing to compromise and to accept a fair outcome. This means that there are some situations where it is not appropriate. In these circumstances it is best to stick to a more formal process.

With its outcome-focused approach, looking for a fair solution, mediation can often be a cheaper, speedier answer to workplace disputes than the formal process. Even where it fails it can help to satisfy a tribunal that you have ben reasonable, potentially reducing the costs of a hearing. If you think that mediation may be the solution for your workplace conflicts, or would like to discuss a situation at your company, get in touch to talk about hoe Shed The Conflict could help you.