Groups: A final byproduct of employees being self-sufficient is
difficulty in working in groups. Many employees report that they
could do the job faster and better on their own, so why are they
forced to work in groups? Since employees are often isolated,
they have lost many of the skills required to work effectively in
groups. They are comfortable with short periods of social chitchat, but are less comfortable with long periods of negotiation
SKILLS NEEDED FOR A CAREER IN
How can a mediator prepare him/herself to have a
successful career in resolving these disputes?
1. Communication: The best way to prepare to mediate in the
workplace is to spend time in a variety of different workplaces.
Coffee shops, temp agencies, roof installers, and computer
assembly lines all have one thing in common: they have to talk
to their team! Every workplace has a different approach for
addressing disputes and watching these with intentionality will
allow the blooming mediator to observe what works well. Cre-
ate your own list, which you can post on your website or list in
a marketing/training/facilitation deliverables brochure. A few
examples to get you started:
• Create an office “garbage-can,” an acceptable place
or method for discussing concerns
• Have management set an example of healthy com-
munication: Criticize privately and praise publicly.
When an issue is raised, bring in those involved to
discuss it together. Set clear times when items can
be discussed and when management needs to be
uninterrupted, and encourage employees to follow
the same pattern. When items are being discussed,
push aside distractions and focus on the listener.
Set a clear follow-up plan, and make sure to follow
• Have employees develop their own job descriptions/
role definitions/task clarifications, communication
policies, and meeting standards that encourage open
• Address disputes immediately.
• Don’t allow gossip.
• But really, don’t allow gossip.
• To reinforce the no-gossip rule, develop office prizes
for employees who spread kindness and squash
negativity. It feels odd at first, but employees often
come to appreciate the slow changes they feel in an
2. Clarity: For mediators that work with HR departments,
encourage a yearly review where employees re-draft their
job descriptions. Ask employees to meet with each other to
review any overlap or areas that need more attention. Then
submit these descriptions to HR and management for review
Another approach for defining roles is to ask employees,
especially in the first year or at the beginning of any new project, to send an email to their manager summarizing their role
expectations, and cc’ing others involved. “Dear manager, just
to review, for the ABC project, I will be contacting XYZ to get
the vendor proposals, and then handing the proposal to the
sales team, right?” This of course takes extra time initially, but
saves much time in the long run.
3. Groups: There is increasing pressure on groups: get more
work done, share more information, get along better, with
less time. Mediators who work with organizations can help
in this process by facilitating meetings, then eventually con-
ducting trainings so that employees can effectively facilitate
their own meetings. Basic facilitation guidelines:
• Draft a basic meeting agenda, including Who needs
to be there and what is expected of them, When
the meeting will start and finish, What are the action
items from previous meetings to be addressed and
what are the new items, and How will these items be
• Save this as a basic agenda template that can be
updated before each meeting.
• Distribute the agenda at least one week before the
• Before the meeting, identify a note-taker.
• At the beginning of the meeting, spend a few minutes having fun. Maybe a silly ice-breaker, maybe
take turns bringing snacks, have a monthly auction
or trivia session. Five minutes of relationship-building at the beginning of the meeting is worth
the time for smoother negotiations during the next
hour. This is imperative so that people feel comfortable expressing dissenting ideas, and willing to
accept new ideas. Activities that are enjoyed will be
repeated, so take a few minutes to make meetings
• During the meeting, facilitate by making notes and
soliciting feedback from everyone in the room.
Review previous action items, identify new items and
who will be responsible for them by what date.
• Normalize disagreements. Continue to congratulate
employees on voicing new ideas, listening to new
ideas, and point out how many ideas would not have
been discovered if the group had not come together.
• As conflicts arise, point out when there are multiple
values at play and the opportunities this creates.
What solution can incorporate more values, thereby